Liang Hong, Blessing Adewale, Dandong Zeng, Xin Lin, Thu Phuong Luu, Tugce Akkoyun, Domenica Simoneth Torres Vaca, Gülsen Güler, Alejandro Maya Toro
The Importance Of A Media-Literate Society
Nowadays, our society is characterised by elements that were unimaginable only twenty years ago. Our routines include things such as online shopping, posting on social media on a daily basis, and reading the news from electronic versions of newspapers and news channels. Such routines create more and more data while feeding digital systems. It is said that by the end of 2025, 163 zettabytes of data will be created globally. Surely, this much amount of data in our daily lives brings about many questions: what do we do with this amount of data? How could we prevent its misuse? How could we understand and use it? It is not necessary for every person to be a data scientist nor to have knowledge of programming algorithms. However, it is definitely relevant to have a rational and critical understanding of what is being done with all the data we put out there, as well as its possible effects in our personal lives and our society. Hence, it is not the intention of becoming a media expert but somehow a bit of a media literate.
Moreover, what does it mean to be media literate? In the Digital Single Market policy of the European Union, media literacy is defined as “the capacity to access, have a critical understanding and interact with the media. It is a tool that empowers citizens as well as raises their awareness and helps them counter the effects of disinformation campaigns and fake news spreading through digital media”.
Since today’s children are born with a tablet or a cell phone next to their cribs, it would not be wrong to say that today’s pupils will face challenges like digitalization and datafication in their future. They are continuously being imposed on the advertisements that algorithms decide according to their online behaviors, accessing areas where the media might be spreading false information without little parental control, and which could lead to privacy leaks. Why is this relevant? Because current generations are more connected to technology than previous ones, they can even have an AI buddy, for instance. Therefore, if they are not empowered with media literacy, they will be the vulnerable ones who will get affected by the changes in the digital age, as they will not have the means to cope up with the ‘’new rules’’ of society. Children today should be educated to go beyond what computers can do and become the main potential in the workforce of tomorrow.
For the next generations to be ready and empowered against the dangers of the digital world, it is imperative for them to understand the challenges of the digital age by promoting media literacy at the core of education curriculums while focusing strongly on critical thinking. However, what does that mean? In short, as defined by The Foundation for Critical Thinking in the USA, it stands for “self-directed, self-disciplined, self-monitored, and self-corrective thinking; actively and skilfully conceptualizing, applying, analysing, synthesizing, and/or evaluating information gathered from, or generated by, observation, experience, reflection, reasoning, or communication”. In this context, with torrents of information and online data, it is a necessity that they become critical thinkers when it comes to sharing their data, coming across a piece of news that seems inaccurate or looking for statistics that companies use in their advertisement.
Currently Adopted Initiatives
There are already many initiatives that focus on tackling the issues of the digital age such as Code for America and School of Data. Some governments also have acknowledged the importance of media literacy and have started to take actions in recent years. In the United States, for example, more states take on media literacy in schools, introducing laws about digital citizenship and internet safety. Similarly, China has been developing a current curriculum reform for implementing media literacy education and has welcomed the debut of the first AI textbook series for students. The European Union and the European Commission, on the other hand, brought the topic to the table in 2009 by pushing member states to include media literacy education in their compulsory curricula to help EU citizens to become future-ready. The EACEA National Policies Platform explains the aim of media literacy and safe use of new media as “to help young people develop media literacy and digital competences, as well as to ensure the safe use of new technologies and social media”. Thus, it is clear that EU member states have come to the realization of how essential media literacy is for the future of European pupils.
Although several actions have been taken to promote media literacy for future generations, the dialogue keeps rising towards the idea of including it in the current education system, in order to get effective results towards combating the issues of the digital age. At this point, modern media literacy offers essential means for constructive media literacy education, which need to be considered when deciding future action plans such as:
- Youth participation
- Teacher training and curricular resources
- Parental support
- Policy initiatives
- Evidence-based construction
A Cross-Disciplinary Collaboration Of Media Literacy
Furthermore, it is a fact that cross-disciplinary collaboration of media literacy needs to be improved. In other words, findings from more than one field need to be brought together to ensure the proactiveness of media literacy. Social psychology, political science, informatics, communication studies, etc., all have approaches to media literacy to curb the challenges that digitalization of society brings. These ideas need to merge, in order to create a holistic perspective of the organization, the media environment and the way in which pupils pilot it.
It is further necessary to have collaboration between schools, parents, governments and civil society if we want to build a solid education system where media literacy thrives critical thinking and prepares pupils as digital citizens, entrepreneurs and innovation leaders of future. Politicians, who decide the future of the education policy need to realise that we live in an age where huge changes can happen within days, where ‘’traditional rules’’ crumble with the development of technology. Taking years to plan an education policy and curricula that will end up redundant at the time that it is put in force will not bring any solutions. We need to focus on the abilities and skills that are required in the digital age rather than platform-based and linear thinking. Teachers need to realise that technology is part of the classroom and simply banning its use will not be a solution but the prevention of media literacy. There is evidently a need to support pupils to use technology mindfully and provide activities in class, which will strengthen students’ media literacy skills and critical thinking.
We need a media literacy education that is not platform or ‘’trend based’’, but an education policy that allows and gives space for teachers to guide students through the online era and equip them with the means and sources that they can use as the basis of their critical thinking journey.