The importance of media literacy within the Insafe network

For centuries, literacy has referred to the ability to read and write. Early thinking about media literacy emerged much more recently, partly in response to a growing mass entertainment industry - from the early days of vaudeville, through radio, cinema, television, newspapers and magazines. It's now evolved to encompass modern-day media such as video games and online content, apps and services.

Today, we get most of our information through an interwoven system of media technologies. Hence, the ability to read many types of media has become an essential skill in the 21st century. Media literacy provides citizens with the ability to think critically, and gives them a comprehensive understanding of how media works, and how it can influence the individual and society as a whole.
Nowadays, young people are using the internet to interact socially, to play games, and to watch videos on their computers and their mobile devices. This use of the internet is growing at a rate far faster than for conventional TV watching. The focus on teaching technology skills and the gap between parents, teachers, and children and young people regarding perceptions of activity has substantial implications for media literacy educators. Thus, media and digital literacy are currently more topical than ever around Europe.
Here, the Insafe network of Safer Internet Centres (SICs) sees it as an important and necessary task to empower children and youth to adapt good media habits, and to guide parents and professionals to support children and youth in their use of online media and digital technologies.
Map 1: Importance of media literacy within the Insafe network
SICs provide a variety of information, training sessions and resources on media literacy for different target groups, including children, young people, parents, teachers, trainers and social workers. When planning activities around media literacy, the following objectives are key:
  • To raise awareness about media literacy and the necessity of critical thinking towards media content.
  • To inform parents and professionals of the opportunities and risks online, and give them guidance on what to be aware of when their children go online.
  • To promote a positive use of media among children and young people, and to involve them in creative activities (for example, through peer-to-peer education).
  • To identify and promote existing practices, and to provide concrete activities for different target groups.
In order to achieve the given objectives, the Insafe network provides a variety of activities around the topic of media literacy for various target groups. The following table gives a short summary of the overall approach:
  • Creating resources and awareness materials (for example, brochures, handbooks guidelines, and so on).
  • Hosting conferences, events, workshops and thematic lessons.
  • Organising youth programmes and hands-on activities, as well as contests and competitions.
  • Creation of online platforms and websites.
  • Spreading the word in teacher communities and on social media.
  • Contributing to educational and parental magazines.
  • Reaching out to the target group(s) directly, for example by sending newsletters via email.
  • Promoting media literacy in line with other international initiatives such as ‘Code Week', ‘Get Online Week' or ‘Safer Internet Day'.
 For  whom?
  • Children and young people (8-18 years old).
  • Parents and grandparents.
  • Educators and pedagogues.
  • Social worker and carers.
  • Professionals and librarians.
  • Peer educators.
  • To develop critical thinking skills and creative usage of media and different media channels.
  • To understand how media messages shape our culture and society.
  • To evaluate online content based on our own experiences, skills, beliefs and values.
  • To create and distribute our own media messages.
  • To recognise possible bias, spin or misinformation.
In this regard, the Insafe network is currently working on a position paper which will showcase best practice and activities on media and digital literacy across Europe, emphasising that media literacy is the 21st century approach to education.
Some success stories can be highlighted as follows:
 Country  Sucess  story          Aim
 Finland  Media  Literacy  Week   (MLW)        MLW takes place each year in February in order to raise awareness and promote the importance of media literacy and media education. Approx. 40 organisations (including ministries, governmental agencies, telecom operators, data security companies, media companies and NGOs) are engaged every year. Themes, campaigns, awareness materials and events for MLW are planned in cooperation with participating stakeholders. The National Audiovisual Institute carries the main responsibility for MLW, but it is a joint effort of all participating organisations.
 Luxembourg   DigiRallye An event for primary school children on online safety and new technologies, which took place for the first time in July 2015.
 Portugal  7 days, 7  tips about  media An initiative that emphasises collaboration between teachers, students, school libraries and newspapers/TV/radio in order to promote critical and creative usage of media.
 Sweden  "MIL for  me" Digital training package about e-learning in media and information literacy.
 UK  Childnet  Digital  Leaders  Programme  Launched in autumn 2015, the Childnet Digital Leaders Programme aims to empower young people (11-18 years) to champion digital citizenship and digital creativity within their schools and to educate their peers, parents and teachers about staying safe online.


Related news

Why media and information literacy matters?

  • News
  • 29/06/2016
  • María José Velasquez Flores (Youth representative)

In this article, María José Velasquez Flores gives her views on why media and information literacy matters for young people, and why they should be encouraged to contribute to internet governance debates on such issues.