Disinformation and youth: how can we increase media literacy among young people?

A study conducted by researchers at Stanford shows that young people have difficulty judging the credibility of online information. As children of the internet and major media consumers, young people primarily get information and communicate online and through social media . Still, the speed with which they receive and come into contact with information does not give them the hindsight to judge its reliability. With the proliferation of fake news, schools have long-run educational programmes to teach children media literacy to decipher the content received.

In a digital world, everyone can create media content in different forms and on various platforms. Unfortunately, the risk is that it is often tricky and almost impossible to identify the source to judge the reliability of the information presented. This is where the importance of media literacy comes in.

What is media literacy?

Media literacy refers to the ability to understand the content of any medium - print, digital, audio, video, etc. - both on the surface and at a deeper level. The first level of understanding refers to the message itself, to the first conception of the information. The second level is more abstract as it encompasses 'traditional' storytelling mechanisms, such as allusions, contextualisation, and deeper knowledge. Essentially, this level requires more critical thinking.

European Schoolnet and its many educational partners have recognised the importance of developing media literacy among young people. From a European level, media literacy is one of the focal points of the Digital Education Action Plan 2021-2027. This renewed European Union policy initiative aims, among other things, to foster the development of a high-performing digital education ecosystem.

Fact4All against disinformation

Coordinated by European Schoolnet and co-funded by the European Commission's Media Literacy of All Programme (2021-2027), the Facts4All – Schools as Community Hubs against Disinformation project seeks to increase awareness and critical thinking about online disinformation- especially between young people and their (grand)parents.

The project's objective is to highlight the effective use of social media. The aim is not to limit or eradicate its use, as these new communication tools should be seen as allies and not enemies. Instead, Fact4All wants to raise awareness in schools about the dangers of disinformation and its prevalence online. The guidance and support provided by the project include the creation of a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) where teachers and parents can find resources to set up a conversation space and educational resources to be included in the school curriculum. The implementation of these educational tools will support the further development and implementation of effective school-wide approaches to societal challenges and misinformation concerning their local communities.

In order to provide the necessary resources and involve and empower all educational stakeholders and parents, Fact4All plans to launch a massive open online course on information literacy. The first module will open in March 2022. You are encouraged to visit the project webpage to keep up to date with project preparations.

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