This is a topic close to my heart, not just because I work in the media industry, but because I also spent many years working in schools, and the one subject I probably had the most involvement in was media education.
An important part of secondary schooling now involves a subject called “media education”. I'd rate it as being very important considering how much of our life is now dominated by the media, and how much of it is extremely deceptive (this is just one aspect about it that's very important to learn).
We spend a great deal of our lives finding out about things just by being told about them, and our most formative years are certainly spent that way—passively ingesting information. Indeed, we're strongly indoctrinated into believing and doing what we're told, and punished for daring to question the teacher. So it just sort of happens that we go along with much of what we see, read, and hear in the media, without really questioning it, later on in life as well as when we're young. Likewise for how people's own characters develop, copying what other people do, sometimes unconciously, sometimes deliberately emulating people that they idolise. Almost any parent can tell you about their child parroting the annoying behaviour of a peer or some rubbish on television, this carries on well into the teens, and beyond.
For thousands of years we've instilled values and morals into people through storytelling, the technique is even more effective when it's acted out in realistic manners (such as in movies) rather than just reading a story, or watching it being badly acted out in simple moralistic plays (crass church plays spring to mind, here). And for just as long, we've indoctrinated and brainwashed people into believing certain things, no matter what the truth or consequences, because it advantages somebody (i.e. I'm talking about the opposites of ethics and morals).
It's no surprise to anybody who really thinks about it, that the acts portrayed in movies strongly influence most that watch them in some way, whether that be just for the moment or much longer, for bad or for good. You have to be ignorant, or have ulterior motives, to argue that movies can portray whatever they like, however they want to, without it having any harmful effects on people. We've seen the terrible influences it's had on some people, some of us have personally witnessed it, or had it touch our lives in some way. Fifteen years of television indoctrinating young minds into accepting violence as the way to resolve matters, of trivialising death and destruction, of denigrating individuality, pushing stereotypes, and so on, does actually have a brainwashing effect, just the same as other techniques.
Being more educated about the media helps you to realise these things, and be more aware of how you're being manipulated. And for those in the media, being more mindful of the effects that they can have might just cause them to be more careful about what they do.
Progaganda presented as fact, with no real research to corroborate facts, or deliberately being selective about what facts are used to promote a point of view. There's a lot of poor journalism, deliberately biased, or simply not researched properly, and it's quite common for news producers to try and set themselves up as judge, jury, and executioner on some issues. “Trial by media” is becoming a disturbingly common event, where they present the point of view that they want, and that's all you see. You can't really make a proper assessment of a situation to form an opinion, as you only have part of the story, yet it's presented as if you are being told the whole story. It's become the new “witch-hunt”.
Promotion of unhealthy things as being good (anorexic models, smoking and boozing role models, charismatic actors that are always playing roles of “professional assholes” and being glorified for it, portraying gratuitous and extreme violence and destruction as being exciting rather than devastating, etc.).
Using adults to play child/youth roles in many dramas, and youths developing image problems about themselves because they don't meet up to what they expect from what they think are their peers (falsely believing that they're abnormally underdeveloped, etc., based upon what they see, thinking that they're the same age). Likewise with adult roles, portraying unusually perfect or outstanding bodies as being the norm, and unhealthy ones as being a desirable way to look.
You learn things that you never knew before, and experience things in different ways.
Despotic regimes get exposed, aid is found for people stricken by disasters, and injustices may get righted, all because it wasn't kept a secret.
To be mindful of being deceived, to be sceptical and question opinons presented as facts. To make an effort to verify things for yourself. To encourage you to think.
To understand how the media actually works.
To work out whether you'd like to be a part of it.
It's taught in different ways by different teachers, some emphasise some aspects more than others, some ignore all but their own pet interests. But these are some of the things I've been involved in, or observed being taught, in the past: