We urgently need to spread media literacy


According to Ofcom, media literacy enables people to have the skills, knowledge and understanding to make full use of the opportunities presented by both traditional and new communications services. Media literacy also helps people to manage content and communications and protect themselves and their families from the potential risks associated with using these services.

In other words, if you don’t understand the information you are getting online and in print, how are you going to be able to make the right decisions that will allow you and your family to stay safe, healthy and prosper?

Which makes the results from Ofcom’s Adult’s Media Use and Attitudes Report 2020/21 very worrying. It showed that 30 per cent of the adults surveyed believe that most of the information they find online is true, and a further 24 per cent did not consider the potential trustworthiness of online information at all.

Probably the best practical example of why knowing the difference between truthful and not truthful information has been over the last 18 months with information about Covid-19.

According to Ofcom’s Children’s News Consumption survey published in April 2021, more than six in ten children aged 12-15 agreed that they found it hard to know what was true and what was false about covid-19 during the second lockdown (November-December 2020) – a higher proportion than had felt this during the first lockdown (April 2020: 52%).

As the year went on, 12-15s used on average fewer news sources than they had earlier in the Covid19 pandemic (3.7 in November-December, compared to 4.5 in April). Friends and family became the most-used sources for news and information about Covid-19, although this decreased from 67 per cent in April to 56 per cent in November-December 2020.

Which means that children are relying on adults to tell them what’s truthful and what isn’t but 54 per cent of adults either don’t think about it, or think most of the information is true so don’t necessarily check.

Here are some simple questions that you can ask yourself when reading information to help you work out if it’s truthful or not.

  • What’s the source? – Where was it published? What do you know about the publication? When was it published?
  • What’s the content? – Is it factual or is it just someone’s opinion? If there are facts, where do they come from?
  • Intention – What is the purpose of the article? Does it make you want to do something? Why is that?
  • Authorship – Who wrote it? What do you know about them? Do they have an agenda?
  • Language – What sort of language is being used? Is it “shouty”? How does it make you feel?

At  the Charlotte Project we believe passionately in teaching young people media literacy. We believe that a generation that is engaged, educated and questioning will participate in current events in a positive and proactive way. As a not-for-profit organisation, we offer free critical thinking and media literacy workshops to schools, colleges and youth groups – aimed at 15-18 year olds and delivered by trained journalists.

Our credo is ‘Lose the truth and you lose the world.’ Schools and colleges teach practical and academic skills to help their students navigate the world and improve their life chances; the toolbox we and other media literacy trainers provide will prove equally valuable and necessary in the fight against misinformation and disinformation.

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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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