6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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There is no national strategy on media literacy and safe use of new media or other public normative act. However, there is a Media Literacy Coalition in Education.
In terms of national documents, media literacy is provided for in the Ordinance of 2016 on civic education (Наредбата от 2016 г. за гражданското образование). Media literacy was included in this ordinance in 2018.
The skill to search for and use information is directly related to the young people’s ability to think critically and to be full-value and active citizens. Today, only 50% of school students may assess the authenticity of information.
During the school year 2018/2019, classes in media literacy were introduced for the first time in order to establish digital and media competences including 5 key skills – information literacy, communications and cooperation, creation of digital content, safety and problem solving. Despite the efforts of the Ministry of Education and Science, school students and teachers need adequate resources for training and teaching in these classes. This appies especially to disadvantaged areas where the environment is worse.
According to the Media Literacy Coalition in Education, inclusion of new classes is a positive step but this must be accompanied by appropriate teacher training. With regard to media literacy classes, the Coalition issued its position as early as the end of August 2018 stating that the introduction of digital literacy elements should be on all subjects and not in a limited number of hours as a separate discipline. At the same time, teachers should be supported to acquire the knowledge and skills that will make them more effective in delivering this knowledge to the students, the members of the coalition insisted. Тhe conference "How to Teach Media Literacy at School - Methods and Practices", which took place on November 10th 2018 in Sofia, provided an opportunity to more than 80 teachers from all over the country to get acquainted with practice-tested methodologies for media literacy training for students from 1st to 12th grade.
The lack of a methodology for media literacy training has led members of the coalition to unite their expertise and support the process of introducing media literacy classes in schools. Several of the organizations involved in the coalition have already developed and established methodologies or are in the process of developing such ones on ongoing projects. Overall, they manage to cover all classes from 1st to 12th grade.
A good example of a particular project on the topic is the CLAS Project (КЛАС [Критични:Любознателни:Активни:Смели]) implemented by European Institute Foundation (фондация „Европейски институт“) for a period of 30 months. The start date of the project was 19.09.2019 . The project is aimed at promoting the media literacy and civic education. It comprises 7 interrelated activities, including initiatives for training on civic education and media literacy for teachers and school students, three-days training camp on media literacy for school students, and establishment of local partnerships between civic organisations and educational institutions/ organisations. 3 educational materials and tools will be developed and disseminated – 2 handbooks (on civic education and media literacy) and online platform with educational blog/ vlog. Target groups comprise teachers and lecturers from disadvantaged areas across the country (14 towns), and the final beneficiaries comprise children and young people and school students at all ages from selected towns. As a result of the project, the media literacy and the quality of civic participation in the target towns are expected to improve.
Under the National Campaign “I Will Not Be Hacked („Национална информационно-образователна кампания „Няма да ме хакнат“) the State e-Government Agency organizes a number of online and event initiatives, with the support of other government institutions and NGOs. In 2018, within the 6-month period of the campaign and the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU, lessons took place for primary and secondary schools, educational materials and business workshops.
Some of the supporters of the Campaign “I Will Not Be Hacked” are the Ministry of Education and Science; the Ministry of Transport, Information Technologies and Communications, the Ministry for the Bulgarian Presidency of the Council of the EU; the General Directorate Combating Organized Crime; CoderDojo Bulgaria, Digital National Coalition; the State Agency for National Security.
Media Literacy Days is a campaign that promotes the need to introduce media literacy into education. It is organized by The Media Literacy Coalition, started for the first time in 2018. It is organised by the NGO’s coalition for Development of Media Literacy of Bulgarian children.
How to make the best in a creative way while maintaining their security and that of others on the Internet? The 17 teenagers between the ages of 15 and 18 in an online hackathon: “Digital Media Literacy Solutions: My Right to an Opinion” on May 9, 2020 looked for the answers to this question.
The hackathon is part of the project “Academy for Teenagers: My Right to an Opinion”, implemented by UNICEF and the Association of European Journalists-Bulgaria in partnership with Teen Station and the Media Literacy Coalition.
IN-EDU PROJECT - Inclusive communities through Media literacy & Critical Thinking EDUcation - is a 24-month project run by 7 European partners based in Italy, Bulgaria, France, Croatia and Slovenia. It focuses on developing good practices in media literacy and critical thinking education via inclusive, non-formal learning programmes which combine training and events at community level.
The main aim of the project is to reinforce media literacy and critical thinking among students. The IN-EDU engagement programme does this through interactive activities at local level that encourage action and participation from teachers, parents and families, and other stakeholders – thus increasing also their awareness, knowledge and competences on the subject. By working at local level the project intends to have an impact on the wider communities and play a part in preventing marginalization and countering inequality.
Media Literacy Changes the World is part of the project. The event was organised at the end of January 2021.
In February, 2019, the rapporteurs in the National Eurochild Forum – Bulgaria (NEF) and the children from Megaphone worked on the topic “How to cope with online bullying?” 75 children – representatives of the National Children Network, at the age of 10 and 18 years (37 boys and 38 girls) took part in the survey.
6 questions were asked:
1. Have you ever experienced or witnessed online bullying? If yes, what happened?
2. What would you do if someone insults or bullies you online?
3. What would you do if you see that someone insults a friend of yours or someone you know online?
4. How do teachers react when a schoolmate of yours shares that they experience or witness online bullying?
5. What should teachers do with the online bulliers over a peer?
6. How can we prevent children and young people online bullying over peers?
The conclusions from this study reflect the opinions of children and young people:
To the question “How do teachers react when a schoolmate of yours shares that they experience or witness online bullying?”, most of the children respond that teachers would help, however the sum or the answers, according to which children do not refer to the teachers, teachers know a little about online bullying, teachers would do nothing, or the “I don’t know” answers, is higher than the answers that teachers would help. Furthermore, children say that teachers would help by forwarding the issue to a psychologiest/ pedagogic councellor and that they would try to talk. There are few answers that teachers would talk about online safety or would involve specialists from this area.
One of the most common forms of online bullying, as children’s answers show, is among peers and quite frequently online bullying tranforms in physical form of violence at school. The above considerations show that the involvement of teachers in the issue by means of trainings and increasing the children’s trust to them is crucial for reducing the online bullying and rasing the awareness among children.
When children speak about what they would do if somebody insults them online, most of them put an emphasis on technical settings and on “blocking”, which also corresponds to the individual measurs recommended by the Safe Internet National Center.
Many respondents say that they would not mind and will cope with this themselves, sometimes by violence as well. Few children say that they will ask for help from adult relatives or specialists. The predominant positions of children are a prerequisite to suggest that online bullying is a topic encompassed among children and adults intervene only in case of crisis.
In November 2020, the United Nations Association of Bulgaria organised online discussion on: Online and Offline Violence against Children and Young People.
The participants in the discussion comprised representatives of the National Safe Net Center, a lecturer from the Faculty of Law of Plovdiv University and the Bulgarian Academy of Science, as well as a representative of the multinational team in the regional office of Plan International – an organisation for development and humanitarian activities in the Asian-Passific region. The participants discussed the situation in Bulgaria and across the world, the legal framework in Bulgaria and how to react in case of online bullying.
The statistics of the National Safe Net Center (Националния център за безопасен интернет) show sharp increase of alerts. There are 8825 alerts for 2019 in comparision to 323 in 2016. 1/4 of young people at the age of 9 to 17 become victims of any kind of bullying by their peers, and 1/5 of them confess that they have performed such actions.
Data show that the reasons for increase of online bullying is that the digital generation grows in “sexually poisoned culture full of violence and that children and young people are not enough aware of the internet hazards.
Online environment enhances the opportunities for violence and exploitation of children by the closest circle – friends, partners and schoolmates. Most offen, committers of online bullying are minor – 33% of the online content is generated by the children.
There are many institutions and organisations that play crucial role for the prevention of and protection against online bullying. The Criminal Code (Наказателният кодекс) provides for certain defence, as far as the crime may be established and proven. Non-profit organisations are most active in terms of violence against children.
According to the specialists who participated in this event, the Bulgarian society is not familiar with the topic of online bullying. Families and parents are not familiar with the risks in the internet and do not know how to react. The state should also become an assistant, trainer and guarantor for the protection of children.
Successful example for prevention is the Cyberscouts program of the National Safe Net Center. Cyberscouts teach students in the 5th grade how to protect themselves online by developing skills of the 21st century. As a result, school students teach their peers in class and manage to find pedophilic profiles and send alerts.
The National Safe Net Center was established in 2005. It is coordinated by the non-governmental Applied Researches and Communications Fund in partnership with Parents Assocation (Асоциация “Родители”) and DeKoni Advertising Agency (рекламна агенция ДеКони). The center deals with alerts for children pornography and online bullying, organises trainings, consultations of children, teachers, parents.
Plan International is an organization for development and humanitarian activity, which strengthens the rights of children and equality of girls. In 2019 it is active in 77 countries and reaches 21,6 million girls and 18,9 million boys worldwide.