Facebook launched their Digital Literacy Library (a media literacy guide) last month, stating that the aim was to make users more media literate and enable “everyone to feel safe when using Facebook”.
What is media literacy?
To be media literate is to fully understand and be able to assess the accuracy of messages received from all forms of media (including internet, TV, radio, music, books, newspapers, magazines, video games and all advertising). This means developing basic research skills. Becoming media literate makes it easier to spot fake news, decreasing the potential for anxiety and damage to self-esteem. As content regulation diminishes, particularly online, the need for media literacy is growing for everyone, with the well-being of young people increasingly highlighted as an area of concern.
Director of the National Literacy Trust, Jonathan Douglas, recently told The Telegraph & Argus: “The way young people experience news is changing rapidly. This transformation, which has been driven by the rise of digital and social media, has given young people exciting new opportunities to become creators, curators and communicators of news – not just consumers of it.
“However, with these new opportunities come new threats. We have uncovered a dangerous lack in the literacy skills that children and young people require to navigate our digital world and identify fake news. If we don’t take urgent action to bring the teaching of critical literacy skills into the 21st century and to engage children actively with news, we risk damaging young people’s democratic futures, along with the well-being of an entire generation.”
The National Literacy Trust’s All-Party Parliamentary Group on Literacy was launched in 2011 and chair Lucy Powell MP says that a lack of literacy skills needed to identify fake news is causing young people “to mistake false news for fact, become anxious as they believe misleading stories, and risk exposure to malign agendas.”
So, how much influence could misleading media currently be having in the UK? According to Ofcom:
- 96% of 45-54 year olds are online in the UK
- 96% of 16-24 year olds are online in the UK
- 50% of UK adult internet users say they are concerned about what is on the internet
- 47% of UK adult internet users say they have seen hateful content online in the past year
- 99% of UK 12-15 year olds go online for almost 21 hours a week
- 83% of UK 12-15 year olds own a smartphone and name it as the device they would miss the most
- 74% of UK 12-15 year olds have a social media profile
- 95% of UK 5-11 year olds watch TV for 13.5 to 14 hours a week
- 48% of UK 3-4s use YouTube
There are lots of ways to protect yourself and your loved ones online and become better able to tell fact from fake news. Below are some tips from Epic Studios on navigating the news and becoming more media literate:
Browse websites together and look for relatable examples to discuss
The best way to check that family members are media literate is to look at media together. When discussing media platforms and their approaches with young people and children, find examples that are familiar to them. You could discuss adverts for children’s toys with younger children or YouTube videos with teens. This will make the information you give them easier for them to understand and they will be able to apply themselves in future. It may also be helpful to look at well-known ‘fake news’ examples.
Improve your understanding of different types of media
Take on board that different types of media may influence you and your family in different ways. Some aim to inform, some are sales based and others may be designed to influence, guide opinion or even compel us to take some sort of action. When discussing media, highlight the differences between a variety of media platforms and the types of messages and techniques that they use.
Always ask yourself and encourage others to ask:
- Who created the media you are reading / watching / listening to?
- What were they were trying to achieve when they created it? Do they have an agenda?
- Is the content balanced? Do they provide both sides of a story?
- Where have they sourced their information? Can it be relied upon?
Learn how to evaluate a source
- Look for the ‘s’ in the https (site URL) – this means that the site has a valid security certificate.
- Check for contact information (a phone number, social media accounts, email address and, ideally, physical address)
- Check news pages for unusual links in the comments sections, which are likely to be SEO spam.
- Do not click on pop ups that claim you have won a prize or offer something that sounds too good to be true (as it probably is)