MediaSmartOnline: spotlighting media literacy initiatives in and beyond Europe

Graphic design for the MediaSmartOnline campaign: spotlighting media literacy actions in Europe

What is the campaign about?

The main objective of this campaign is to test out an approach developed by MLA and EUN for running a Europe-wide media literacy awareness-raising campaign in collaboration with the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs). Such a media literacy campaign needs to build on the networking resources available in the SICs and, at the same time, maximise the efforts and activities of other stakeholders involved in supporting practices, developing policy and carrying out research into media literacy including NGOs, government agencies and industry. 

We do not aim to replace or compete against any existing media literacy campaign per se, but we aim to position ourselves as a BIK+ media literacy campaign in collaboration with the Insafe network, while showing we have a good understanding of the wider landscape and existing initiative, as to build synergies and opportunities for collaboration whenever possible.

In order to do so, we are firstly aiming to pilot test this campaign in a restricted number of European countries (Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland) for five weeks, and then gradually scale the campaign at a EU-wide level, to be fully rolled-out in 2025. Other relevant actors will be encouraged to support and promote the campaign, harnessing existing national and European multipliers such as schools, civil society organisations, and industry. Children and young people, and where appropriate parents, caregivers and teachers, will be consulted as part of the scoping exercise to ensure that the resulting campaign(s) deliver age-appropriate messages, and facilitate cross-generational and cross-sectoral exchanges on the creative, critical and responsible use of digital technologies.

Why is it needed?

Empowering children with the skills and knowledge they need when they go online is a key priority of the BIK+ strategy, Pillar 2. In the strategy, the European Commission seeks actions to improve the educational opportunities and the media literacy of children and young people to support Pillar 2, allowing them to become more critical users of online content and services. Dedicated campaigns should be specifically designed to raise awareness of key issues such as disinformation and misinformation, and generally to enhance media literacy skills among children and young people, while also better upskilling those that support them (such as parents, caregivers and teachers)

To give some background and context to these plans, it is useful to reflect on the current state of play of the EU media literacy campaigning landscape, which is characterised by a wide variety of different players and activities, some based on very local, small-scale initiatives while others represent significant ongoing efforts on the part of governments and other agencies. This landscape also reflects the various positions and understanding that people have of the very term ‘media literacy’ and the fact that those active in the field have often operated in different ‘silos’ related to their specific interests. This lack of a common approach to promoting media literacy stems largely from a very mixed view of what constitutes media literacy. The ongoing debate about defining media literacy also points to a discussion as to who exactly is responsible for raising the level of media literacy across society, one that is becoming increasingly critical as we face the ever-rising tide of disinformation.

In addition to the aforementioned, the European Declaration on Digital Rights and Principles for the Digital Decade states that “Children and young people should be empowered to make safe and informed choices and express their creativity in the digital environment”. Pillar 2 of the BIK+ strategy embodies this objective and commits to “providing opportunities to all children and young people to acquire the necessary skills and competences, including media literacy and critical thinking, in order to navigate and engage in the digital environment actively, safely and to make informed choices”. 

Digital empowerment has long been recognised to be one of the most effective ways to support children and young people in their digital activities. Protection on its own is not sufficient to guarantee children gain the benefits from the digital environment and, indeed, prioritising safety and protection over and above participation restricts children from making best use of the many opportunities the digital world offers. 

Notably, a lack of awareness of children’s rights was apparent among many stakeholder groups pointing to the need for more sustained awareness raising on this topic. BIK+ indicates that it will support large-scale media literacy campaigns drawing on the range of resources and initiatives at Commission level, including the work of SICs to impart digital skills on an inclusive basis and with “careful attention to children with special or specific needs, or from disadvantaged and vulnerable backgrounds”.

Explore a range of focus topics

Mapping the current EU landscape of media literacy initiatives

As mentioned, media literacy in Europe is characterised by being a rather diverse and somewhat fragmented area of interest with a wide variety of different players involved ranging from supra-national agencies to national and regional policymakers, NGOs, educational providers and media and industry players. When it comes to actual initiatives, these generally fall into one of the following categories: projects, actions, programmes and campaigns, varying in terms of the type of intervention that is proposed, the scale and target of those for whom it is intended, and the duration and goal. A lack of a common understanding and agreement as to what constitutes media literacy and the extent to which it is synonymous with media education, information and digital literacy, adds further complexity. Interest in media literacy is on the rise, largely as a direct result of our increasing concern with the fight against disinformation which, many argue, is posing a direct threat to our democratic way of life. 

Between September and December 2023, Better Internet for Kids conducted a mapping exercise with the aim to identify as many as possible media literacy initiatives, resources or tools all around Europe and beyond. The Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SIC) was consulted to help map the current EU media literacy landscape and collect suggestions on priorities for an EU-wide media literacy campaign. More specifically, the survey asked SICs about their current media literacy actions, campaigns, and key partners, and specifically requested to evaluate the current status of media literacy education within the Safer Internet Centre’s work programme. 19 SICs answered the survey – and a majority noted media literacy education as a “high priority”. The SICs were also asked to state how they currently deliver any media literacy-related activities, and to point out any additional media literacy programmes or campaigns in their countries, even if not managed or organised by them. They were also asked to provide suggestion for conducting an EU-wide media literacy campaign. In addition, the Media and Learning Association collected a vast selection of current media literacy activities and actions in Europe, by summarising current important activities, key organisations and driving factors. 

Looking ahead: next steps of the campaign

The MediaSmartOnline campaign launched in early March in the three pilot countries (Czech Republic, Ireland, Poland) and ran until mid-April 2024. If you would like to look back at the campaigning activities, keep an eye on #MediaSmartOnline on social media, and make sure to follow us on X, Facebook and LinkedIn.

Is there a particular media literacy initiative that you would like to be featured in the campaign? Do not hesitate to contact us at content@betterinternetforkids.eu

Following this first phase, a short-term Media Literacy Campaign Working Group (MLC-WG) is currently being set up, including a range of European Safer Internet Centres. The MLC-WG is envisioned to be an advisory board with the main task to brainstorm, advise on how to improve the materials and strategy, and co-create campaigning materials in sight of the EU-wide campaign of 2025. 

Don’t miss out on the publication of the MediaSmartOnline campaign materials: check this page regularly and follow the #MediaSmartOnline hashtag to see the campaign roll out on social media.