Youth media literacy

Paul Smulski, Estonia

Young people across the world today are facing diverse challenges; youth work, in all its forms, can serve as a catalyst for empowerment. Never has the need for media literacy and critical thinking been more apparent. The NGOs, SME and other education providers, especially grass-root civil society organisations, need to develop strategies to support young people, youth workers and front-liners in taking a comprehensive look at media literacy within their curriculum.

This will allow the educational sector to assist young people with a complement of skills that will help them get on in life. Hence, the youth workers need to address the skills gap and increase knowledge and competence in media literacy. The more media literate youth workers will employ these competencies in the youth work setting, the stronger the sense of media literacy, critical thinking and digital citizenship in their target groups.

However, the importance and scope of media literacy extends even further. Namely, we want youth workers and young people to gain a deeper level of understanding when faced with problems online. Youth workers need to learn how to teach young people to evaluate and question their online sources. While today’s younger generation may be made up of digital natives, they still need to be taught how to analyse the information they receive.

Young people must know the difference between a trustworthy and untrustworthy source. Once they master the informal logic approach, it will significantly increase their ability to analyse media content and draw their own conclusions. Young people will gain a deeper understanding of the information they have found.

This is especially important in diverse youth work settings in which young people are bringing different cultures and social backgrounds into the mix. Hence, the youth workers need to make thoughtful cultural platforms and appropriate technology choices. In this way, they will be able to address real-world problems and make learning accessible for youth of all backgrounds.

As youth workers master media literacy with their educational activities, they can collaborate with peers to share best practices and work towards improving the learning outcomes of their target groups. They need to know how to inspire students to use today’s technology as a powerful toolset to expand media literacy and, consequently, young people’s learning opportunities.