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EACEA National Policies Platform: Youthwiki
Belgium-Flemish-Community

Belgium-Flemish-Community

6. Education and Training

6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media


National strategy

On 9 July 2008, the Flemish Parliament adopted a Resolution, submitted by 6 parties, concerning the Support of the Game sector in Flanders. In it, the Flemish Parliament asked for the establishment of a Media Literacy Knowledge Center (Kenniscentrum Mediawijsheid).The Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy has the task of ensuring that all Flemish citizens have the necessary knowledge, insights and skills to use media in our highly mediated society. The Knowledge Centre Media Literacy unveils knowledge and insights about specific and diverse media themes such as cyberbullying, online privacy, gaming, ... It organizes a wide range of support and training initiatives for professionals and volunteers from the education, social, cultural, welfare and poverty sectors and the broad media literacy field. The Knowledge Centre for Media Literacy pays specific attention to vulnerable groups such as children and young people. An additional focus is on target groups that can and should play a facilitating role in the development of media literacy competencies. For young people, it concerns mainly parents, youth workers, counselors in youth care, library staff and teachers.

During the past decade, more and more attention has been paid to digital and media literacy in Flemish policy with e.g. a special focus on media literacy in the Flemish Youth and Children’s Rights Plan 2020-2024 (Vlaams Jeugd- en Kinderrechtenbeleidsplan - JKP, see below), an integration of media literacy into the curriculum and final objectives of secondary education (See section on media literacy and online safety through formal education), a joint concept note on Media Literacy by the Minister of Media and the Minister of Education in 2012 (see below), and the evolution of the reading promotion project Newspapers in the Classroom to a broader media literacy project News in the Classroom in 2017.

In March 2020, the Flemish Government selected in march 2020 five priorities for the new Flemish Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan (2020-2024). Media literacy is one of these priorities. For each of the five chosen priorities, the relevant ministers, experts, specific policy officers, youth (work) organizations and local authorities will now take further concrete action. These expert teams will give concrete substance to the priority. This will ultimately result in the definitive Youth and Children's Rights Policy Plan with a strategy and concrete actions on media literacy. The Flemish Government must approve this plan by 1 October 2020 at the latest. 

On 4 May 2012, the Flemish Government principally approved the Concept Note on Media Literacy (Conceptnota Mediawijsheid), a joint proposal of the Minister of Media and the Minister of Education. The concept paper on media literacy focuses on four important objectives:

  • Creating a sustainable and strategic framework for media literacy.
  • Stimulating and increasing competences: Dealing with different media in a critical and efficient way, but also in a responsible and safe manner, requires knowledge, skills and attitude competences.
  • Eliminating the digital divide.
  • Creating a safe and responsible media environment

In order to achieve these objectives, the concept note contained an action plan with forty concrete actions. Although the concept note focuses on everyone in society, special attention was paid in this document to children and young people. Some examples of actions regarding young people are:

  • Starting up policy-relevant research on the interaction of children and young people with advertising.
  • Anchoring media and image literacy in the educational curriculum
  • An awareness-raising campaign concerning commercial communication which is primarily geared towards critical vision and awareness raising among children and young people
  • An awareness-raising campaign on privacy, digital identity and the use of social networking sites. This should primarily focus on critical vision and awareness raising among children and young people.

Media literacy and online safety through formal education

Since September 2010 media literacy has been one of the cross-curricular goals for secondary education (Vakoverschrijdende doelen voor secundair onderwijs). Cross-curricular goals are minimum objectives with regard to knowledge, insight, skills and attitudes that do not specifically belong to a field, but are pursued by means of various subjects, educational projects and other activities. Each school has the task of pursuing these cross-curricular goals (best effort obligation). Schools must be able to prove that they work on the cross-curricular goals.

On 9 november 2018, the Flemish Government approved the new final objectives for the first grade of secondary education. On the basis of a social debate, a decreed framework was developed in which 16 key competences were included. Digital skills are one of these key competences. The new final objectives for the first grade will start on 1 September 2019. This means that from the school year 2019/2020 on, in the first grade of secondary education the the following targets for media literacy have to be attained:  

  • The pupils distinguish between effects of possible addictive substances and actions on themselves and their immediate environment, including knowledge of possible addictive actions such as use of social media, games, virtual reality, gambling
  • The pupils demonstrate basic skills to create and share digital content.
  • The pupils demonstrate basic skills to digitally collaborate, communicate and participate in initiatives.
  • The pupils distinguish building blocks from digital systems.
  • The pupils apply a simple self-designed algorithm to solve a problem digitally and non-digitally.
  • The pupils explain the influence of digital and non-digital media on people and society
  • The students apply the rules of the digital world (e.g. privacy rules, ethical and social rules, author rights, …)
  • The pupils evaluate the possibilities and risks of their own and other people's media behaviour.

All these goals are considered transversal goals, meaning that they are an integral part of other key competences, more in particular of: 'Competences in mathematics, exact sciences and technology', 'Competencies in Dutch', 'Competences in other languages',' Competences regarding historical awareness', 'Competences related to spatial awareness' and 'Economic and financial competences'.

The final objectives for the 2nd and 3th grade are not yet developed. Because the final objectives for these two grades have not yet been updated, the attention for media literacy and online security is still very limited and there is no result obligation but only an effort obligation for schools. This effort obligation concerns two topics:

Pupils are alert to media

  • Pupils are alert to media
  • Pupils participate thoughtfully to the public space by means of the media

The Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy publishes on his website different tools and trainings developed/organised by themselves (in collaboration whit e.g. research groups at universities and colleges, organisations …) and by others for schools. Some examples are:

  • An EDUbox on fake news, developed by the Arteveldehogeschool and IMEC, which informs pupils in secundary schools on fake news
  • teaching materials for OKAN classes (reception classes for non-Dutch speaking newcomers) on computer skills and safe internet use.
  • Ad? Wise !, a teaching package on advertising literacy developed by the Department of Educational Science at Ghent University (in Dutch)
  • MOOC’s ( Massive Open Online Courses) on media literacy

Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy ‘Mediawijs’ launched in 2015 ‘Media Coach MOOC’s’ (Massive Open Online Courses), online learning courses on media literacy. Through videos and background information, participants get to know more on various topics such as privacy, online identity and media & relationships. The Media Coach MOOC’s aim at teachers, youth work, library staff and other professionals interested in media literacy.

  •  The Department Education and Training also provides information on media literacy and online safety on the website:

Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning

The Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy (Kenniscentrum Mediawijs) is the most important actor in promoting media literacy in Flanders. A wide range of information about safe and critical internet and social media use can be found at their website.

The media literacy field is a broad field of actors spread over different sectors and policy domains. The Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy offers an online map of all organisations that organise activities related to media literacy. This online map identifies 750 organizations which organize projects on media literacy, but these entail also libraries and educational settings. A further search on this online tool indicates that (consulted the website on 28 December 2019) that 34 organizations can be situated in the youth sector and that 26 of this youth organizations  target young people between 13 and 18 year old.

As described above, The Knowledge Centre on Media Literacy ‘Mediawijs’ offers ‘Media coach MOOC’, an online learning course on media literacy, aimed at professionals (i.a. youth workers) interested in media literacy.

Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media

The Veilig Online – website (Save Online website) is an initiative of the Gezinsbond (Family Federation) in collaboration with Child Focus. The website provides advice to parents who suspect that their son or daughter is being cyberbullied.

The university college Howest (in a Multidisciplinary Cooperation between Social Work, Teacher Education, Applied Psychology and Digital Arts and Entertainment) developed a series of lessons and the Re: Pests game to tackle bullying in secondary education. Through the game, students learn to recognize and address bullying behavior.

Villa Crossmedia, a European project, wants to make young people aware of the opportunities, but also the pitfalls that accompany the use of new media. Villa Crossmedia provides young people with the opportunity to fully experiment with media, and tries to make them more media literate at the same time. Villa Crossmedia devised, together with Mediaraven, an expert in young people and media, a game to test and enhance the media literacy of young people: the Caspar game. A game targeted at young people from 12 to 26 years old, with diverse difficulty degrees. The questions and assignments in the game came about in cooperation with Sensoa (Flemish expertise centre that promotes sexual health). The name of the game (CASPAR) functions as a ‘mnemonic device’ for items a young media maker has to think about and to take into account when producing media: Copyright, Audience /aim, Storytelling, Privacy and Authorship.

Campaign "Think before you post"  (Campagne "Denk na voor je iets online zet"):

Flemish Minister of Education Hilde Crevits launched in 2014 (in collaboration with Mediawijs, the Department of Education and Training, Canon Cultuurcel, EMSOC, the Privacy Commission, Child Focus and the SPION project) a campaign on online privacy. The campaign aimed to sensitize teachers and pupils in secondary education to the theme of online privacy in the classroom. Goal of this campaign was to provide children and young people with skills for responsible and safe use of the Internet. The campaign entailed a book (Mediawijs Online), new course material on online privacy policy, a privacy manual for teachers and the "First aid kit for privacy and social media". All secondary schools have received this information.

The website Clicksafe is an initiative of Child Focus where information about safely and responsible internet use can be found for and by children and young people. Moreover, educational material, tips and training can be found.

The Flemish Department on Education and Training also provides information on cyber-bullying and sexting on their website. On this page information is provided on different types of cyber-bullying, prevention and approach of cyber-bullying and help services and lines for victims of cyber-bullying.

Several other organisations and their websites warn for the risks posed by new media, e.g.:

Finally, also the website of the Knowledge Center on Media Literacy pays a lot of attention to cyberbullying (dossier cyberpesten).

Reporting cyberbullying, sexual cross-border behaviour on internet

In Flanders there is no specific reporting point for cyberbullying, but young people can contact a Centre for Pupil Guidance (Centrum voor Leerlingenbegeleiding, CLB) or a youth advice centre (Jongeren Advies Centrum, JAC) in their area, the children's and youth helpline Awel (website in Dutch; offers a telephone line, chat functions, a forum, and mail services) or contact Tele-onthaal (in Dutch).

They can also phone, chat or email with Child Focus. Child Focus’ main focus is on sexual cross-border behaviour but in their prevention programme they also work on safe internet use. On their “Click Safe” pages they provide first aid assistance in case of cyberbullying and give advice to counteract cyberbullying. They inform also on issues like sexting, grooming and sextortion. Young people can contact the emergency number (116000) of Child Focus in case of cyberbullying issues.