Media literacy is increasingly important for a prosperous society and a well-functioning democracy. It allows Dutch citizens to participate in a rapidly digitising society. Media literacy is also necessary to combat the downside of (social) media, such as disinformation, privacy issues, addiction, bullying, sexting, cybercrime, “fear of missing out” (FOMO), filter bubbles, the online blurring of norms, transgressive behaviours and radicalisation.
Ten years of media literacy research
This document is not intended to be an exhaustive report. Rather, it is meant as a quickscan, based on sources provided by the members of the Scientific Council, with the aim of discovering gaps in knowledge and filling them with new research. However, the report provides the reader with a good overview of the research that has been conducted on the subject of media literacy among a large number of target groups and a number of subjects.
The report is divided into a number of target groups and examines their media literacy skills per target group. Some findings worth mentioning:
- Specific target groups, such as people with low literacy, immigrants and people with (mild) intellectual disabilities are often outside the reach of a random sample. This does not, however, mean that they do not suffer from problems.
- Despite concerns about misuse of personal data, identity fraud and phishing, the Dutches’ online media usage has only increased over time.
- Young people mainly acquire their media skills in their spare time. The social environment in which they grow up therefore has a major influence on the way in which they interact with media.
- The children of parents with lower education spend more time with media compared to children with parents with higher education.
- The motivation to "learn to use the internet" diminishes as the age increases, which is associated with an increasing need for "digital help".
Results for adults (over the age of 18)
The chapter on the Netherlands’ adult population concludes that the different studies conducted allow distinction to be made into different target groups. The most basic of distinctions is a two-way split between those who possess sufficient skills to make use of the opportunities digital media offers, and those who lack those skills. The various studies show that roughly, the younger, more highly educated group (which in some cases consists of slightly more men than women) moves more easily through the digital world than the older, less educated target group, which in turn consists of slightly more women than men.
The dichotomy is not only reflected in the capacity to take advantage of online opportunities,
but is also visible when it comes to feeling safe online, being able to distinguish fake from real news and the extent to which there is sufficient motivation and resources to explore and utilise the possibilities of the internet.
Special attention is paid to vulnerable people and people with low literacy, who are partly dependent on help from loved ones or third parties in order to be able to keep up with a rapidly developing, digital media society.
Results for young people
Age and education level are determining factors when it comes to developing media literacy. The older and the more highly educated, the greater the knowledge and development of skills promoting media literacy. In that respect, young people are no different from adults.
Once young people have developed a high level of media literacy and digital literacy, their parents or guardians cannot simply lean back and relax. These media literate users are at a higher risk of coming into contact with risky online content. Good contact and communication, especially with parents, can decrease that risk.
The group with a vocational education is seen as the most important focus group when it comes to developing media literacy. The challenge with this group is that its members have strong feelings of independence, making them less receptive to a teaching pathway to media literacy.
Patterns visible in media literacy are also reflected in the studies of advertising literacy and news literacy. Age, education level and experience determine the development of each of these fields.
Parents and children
The development of children's media literacy mainly depends on age and education. Media, news and advertising literacy develops over the years and as the level of education is higher, knowledge increases further still. The level of education often depends on the children’s background. This can mean their socio-economic or ethnic background, or a combination of both.
The strategies that parents apply in their media education vary from restrictive policy to co-use of media and games. Restrictive measures are more often applied by parents with qualitatively worse quality communication with their children. This leads to more problematic media usage than when there is qualitatively good communication between parents and their children. Furthermore, it appears that the strategies related to "digital" media education at home are often based on traditional media such as television. Children recognise these strategies.
Many parents are aware of the risks their children face online, but sometimes lack the knowledge about those risks to be able to properly assess them, or are insufficiently aware of what effects media use has on their offspring. Mothers are more concerned about the dangers and risks than fathers are, and parents generally are more concerned about their daughters than their sons.
Professionals in the field advocate for an integrated approach when it comes to stimulating
awareness of the issue of privacy, looking not only at the young people, but also at
the parents, the teachers and the media industry.
Specific target groups
Specific target groups distinguish themselves from the larger mass because they have specific characteristics. For seniors and people with lower levels of education the difference is relatively small and they are relatively easier to trace. It becomes more of an issue with specific target groups, who possess characteristics that preclude them from being included in regular research. People with low literacy, immigrants and people with intellectual disabilities are examples of specific target groups which are outside of the scope of a sample, and are therefore overlooked.
They often lack access to the channels others can use, and even when they do, they often lack basic skills to be able to make optimal use of the possibilities out there. Or it turns into excessive or undesired use, which brings with it risks of cyberbullying, unwanted contact. In many cases, tailor-made professional care is required to help each of these specific target groups on their way to the next phase of their media literacy education, both in education and in healthcare.
Find out more about the work of the Dutch Safer Internet Centre, including their awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services – or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.