Media and information literacy policies in Europe – a timely assessment

In this article, we hear from Professor Sonia Livingstone OBE on media and information literacy policies across Europe and, in particular, the translit.fr resource.
 
What's the situation across Europe in terms of media and information literacies? Do most educational materials come from schools or industry, or other sources? How do countries differ in their problems and their best practice, and can each benefit by learning from the others?
 
These were the kinds of questions in our minds when, just a few years ago, a group of scholars got together to map media literacy provision in the 28 member states. Begun as part of a COST Action on media audiences, and working with multistakeholder conceptions of media literacy, the initiative was brought to fruition by the French National Research Agency project TRANSLIT and presented to UNESCO. The result was the ambitious Paris declaration calling for renewed energies to be devoted to media and information literacies – for children and young people, but also for everyone else too.
 
Activities in this direction continue, with an upcoming forum being organised by UNESCO's GAPMIL project in Latvia at the end of June 2016. I urge everyone interested to get involved. But one reason I am writing now is that the 28 country reports offer an extraordinarily rich and timely assessment of media education in Europe that is, I fear, too little known about. So if you wished to know the situation in Lithuania or Spain or Turkey or, as I am often asked and always answer, the United Kingdom – just visit translit.fr and there's your answer. Please take a moment to click on the report for your country!
 
Each report examines the situation in both formal and informal education, in relation to regulation and co-regulation, for all ages and settings, and including all aspects of ‘information education', spanning access to the internet, active citizenship in digital contexts and e-safety for children.
 
Overall, the story is not a happy one. Even in the UK, where considerable efforts have gone into framing the teaching of media education at school and where the Communications Regulator Ofcom has pioneered the production of fantastic datasets and reports about media literacy, our story is nonetheless one of declining investment and opportunities missed. No wonder our recommendations are demanding.
 
As I blogged at the time, engaging with today's ever more complex media – so as to recognise misleading and exploitative content, to appreciate and evaluate what is available and to grasp the emerging opportunities for the benefit of all citizens – doesn't come naturally. It needs to be facilitated in mainstream, mandatory education as well as in informal learning settings. It must be aided by industry regulation and self-regulation along with the serious adoption of user-centred design. Without this, the task of decoding illegible interfaces (what's really private, who owns your data, what commercial motives lie behind the content you enjoy) will elude even the most media literate users. And then society will find itself trying to catch up and remedy the costs – still unknown - of failing to support a media and information literate population.
 
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Better Internet for Kids Portal, European Schoolnet, the European Commission or any related organisations or parties.
 
About the author of this article:
Sonia LivingstoneProfessor Sonia Livingstone OBE is a full professor in the Department of Media and Communications at LSE. She teaches master's courses in media and communications theory, methods, and supervises doctoral students researching questions of audiences, publics and youth in the changing digital media landscape. She is author or editor of nineteen books and many academic articles and chapters, and has been a visiting professor at many universities worldwide. Her new book, The Class: Living and Learning in the Digital Age, will be published in April 2016.
 
She leads the project, Preparing for a Digital Future, which follows the recently-completed project, The Class, both part of the MacArthur Foundation-funded Connected Learning Research Network. She directed the 33-country network, EU Kids Online, funded by the EC's Better Internet for Kids programme, with impacts in the UK and Europe. She participated in the European COST action, Transforming Audiences, Transforming Societies, and leads ECREA's Children, Youth and Media group. She is currently researching parents' responses to the online commercial environment for their children. She gave a recent TEDX talk on ‘How children engage with the internet'.
 
Sonia also serves on the Executive Board of the UK's Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS), for which she is the Evidence Champion.

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