6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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Media Literacy in Finland is the media literacy policy and the national media education policy document published by the Ministry of Education and Culture in 2019. This document updates and extends the original cultural policy guidelines for media literacy (in Finnish) published in 2013. According to the three main objectives of the media education policy, media education in Finland ought to be comprehensive, of high-quality and systematic in promoting media literacy covering all types of media. The policy document includes various proposals for action that support the objectives. The updated policy stems from the Government programme which highlights the need for media skills for all age groups, which is reiterated in the Media literacy document: '… promoting children and adolescents’ media education remains at least as important and relevant as before.' Beyond this document, as said in the Media Literacy, there are also several sector-specific strategies that are necessary for taking media education into account and to provide more detailed guidance for practical actions, such as curricula in education and library policies. In the youth sector, the role of the National youth work and youth policy programme 2020–2023 is important. One ongoing objective is coordinating ways to prevent child and youth grooming on social media. Both Verke and Koordinaatti, as subcontractors in the Centre of Expertise for Digital Youth Work, have an important role in realising the objectives of this programme, see more in Youth Wiki/Finland 1.4 Youth policy decision making.
The position of media education is recognised in national strategies. The Ministry of Education and Culture supports the promotion of media literacy by allocating resources and information guidance. The National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), established in early 2012, is the only party with a statutory duty to promote media education in Finland. KAVI’s Department for Media Education and Audiovisual Media (MEKU) is responsible for the promotion and coordination of media education at a national level, and the supervision of the provision of audiovisual programmes from the perspective of protecting children. The Finnish National Agency for Education has an important role in promoting media education in formal education. It prepares and makes decisions about the core curricula for basic education and upper secondary education, the core curriculum for early childhood education and care, and bases for vocational and competence-based qualifications. Both of these agencies are operating under the Ministry of Education and Culture. Other ministries also have an important role, for example the Ministry of Justice promotes media literacy as a part of democracy education. The Ministry of Transport and Communications and the Finnish Transport and Communication Agency are co-operating in organising for example campaigns such as the Media Literacy Week and offering expertise on the safe use of the internet.
The implementation of the media literacy policy will be regularly studied and evaluated by KAVI in collaboration with stakeholders and the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Based on Media Literacy in Finland by the Ministry of Education and Culture, the recent curricula revisions at all levels from early childhood education to secondary level and basic education for adults has been important for the promotion of media literacy. Firstly, media literacy is developed from the perspective of supporting the objectives and key content of instruction in each subject such as Finnish & literature, visual arts, social studies, history, and health education. Additionally, media literacy is also developed within the framework of multidisciplinary learning modules where it is understood as being part of multiliteracy. Both the National core curriculum for Basic education and the National core curriculum for general upper secondary schools describe the main topics for learning related to multiliteracy as a multidisciplinary module. For basic education those are for example practising analytical, critical, ethical, environmental, and cultural literacy; producing, interpreting and communicating information and encouraging the use of multiliteracy when participating and being involved in their community, the media and society at large. For general upper secondary schools, emphasis is placed on being familiar with the key norms related to copyrights and freedom of speech, as well as responsibility in producing, using, and sharing contents. When it comes to separate subjects, the specific themes of online safety and the dangers of addiction are included in the content of health education as described in the national core curriculums. The National Agency for Education offers a platform (in Finnish Mediakasvatus) where pedagogical tools and support for media literacy education are available for teachers. Teacher training related to media literacy is also offered by the universities and other educational institutions, as well as by some NGOs. The Ministry of Education and Culture also offers funding (in Finnish Erityisavustus mediakasvatuksen ja medialukutaidon edistämiseen) for such awareness raising actions which are organised according to the aforementioned policy document entitled Media Literacy in Finland.
The policy document Media Literacy in Finland also promotes actions in non-formal and informal learning. KAVI’s Department for Media Education and Audiovisual Media (MEKU) is responsible for the promotion and coordination of media education at a national level. In the field, there are almost 100 different organisations promoting media literacy. The Finnish Society on Media Education is a key organisation among NGOs in the media education field. Several other operators in media education are also members of this society. It aims to support and develop the field of research and practices concerning media literacy education, contribute to the public debate and provide opportunities to share media education experiences online and offline nationally and globally. It organises events, updates an informative website in three languages, also in English and co-operates in national and international networks. It also spreads information on social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Slideshare) to thousands of followers. The Finnish Society on Media Education is a global actor and a member of the UN-Alliance of Civilizations Media Literacy Education Clearinghouse and works in cooperation with International Clearinghouse on Children, Youth and Media. Its work is supported by the Ministry of Education and Culture and by its members.
The policy document Media literacy in Finland lists actors that are exclusively active in the field of media education: ‘There are a multitude of active associations in the child and youth sector that focus on media education in promoting the well-being of children and adolescents. Examples of these organisations include the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, Save the Children Finland, the Finnish Parents’ League and the Finnish 4H Organisation.’ The document also highlights the work done by the youth work centres of expertise in their work: ‘ From the perspective of media education, some of the key centres of expertise at a national level in the 2010s were (and still are) the Centre of Expertise for Digital Youth Work in Finland including Verke, and Koordinaatti. These centres of expertise for youth services, are financed by the Ministry of Education and Culture, to develop and promote competence, expertise and the flow of information regarding youth services as set out by the Youth Act.’
State funding for a digital approach to youth work and youth information and counselling services are shared by the Regional State Administrative Agencies. The annual cost sum has been about one million euros in recent years. As mentioned online by the Agencies: “Regional State Administrative Agencies (AVIs) are responsible for the regional tasks of the Ministry of Education and Culture in the field of education, day care, libraries, sports and youth work. At the local level, these tasks are the responsibility of municipalities.”
The National Youth Work and Youth Policy Programme 2020-2023 has selected ‘Coordinating ways to prevent child and youth grooming on social media’ as one of its main objectives. Towards this objective, the Ministry of Education and Culture is coordinating the actions of an inter-ministerial collaborative project which will be set up in co-operation with the Ministry of the Interior, Ministry of Social Affairs and Health, Finnish National Agency for Education and NGOs. Results of this collaboration will be reported in forthcoming years. However, at the same time, it can be said that the way in which the Finnish policy approached is not by raising awareness of the risks as such, but rather by strengthening all the positive media skills of young people.
The Finnish Safer Internet Centre (FISIC) “works with a well-established multi-stakeholder network, involving the public sector, private sector and civil society to help make the internet a trusted environment through actions that empower and protect users online.
One of the main awareness-raising efforts of the FISIC is the annual Media Literacy Week (MLW) that includes the Safer Internet Day (SID) campaign. The MLW is planned and carried out together with over 40 partners and the actions are implemented in various educational institutions. FISIC also coordinates the Nordic Game Day in an effort to promote game literacy through hundreds of local events in November. In addition, the awareness centre organises an annual Media Education Forum supporting national cross-sectoral cooperation and partnerships.
The Finnish Hotline (Nettivihje) has produced awareness-training material for social workers and professionals working with children. The guidebook, Broach the subject - the internet and sexual abuse of children, provides advice on how to improve children's safety and prevent sexual abuse on the internet and how to support children in difficult situations. There is also video material for youth covering topics such as expressing one's emotions and sexuality on the internet, and protecting oneself from harmful online behaviour.
Save the Children Finland has also produced a preventative online self-help material, I take responsibility, targeting potential child sexual abuse offenders. The material has been awarded the National Crime Prevention Prize by the Finnish Ministry of Justice.
Loisto settlement ry (based in Helsinki area) has a programme called ‘Sua varten somessa’ (For you in social media, in Finnish), which targets children and young people aged 8–21 years and aims to decrease the sexual harassment and violence towards them in social media. Young people are able to contact project’s youth workers in various popular social media platforms and get support and information about online harassment. Project workers create informational and attractive content for Instagram, TikTok and SnapChat, answer directly to the received messages from young people and guide forward to other needed services, such as mental health services or victim support services. The programme has been awarded the Youth work recognition award in 2022 by Minister of Education and Culture, Antti Kurvinen.
Koordinaatti had the "Recognition and prevention of sexual grooming in youth work" -project in 2019–2020, which aimed to strengthen the skills of youth workers in Finland. The project stood against the sexual grooming and sexual abuse of children and young people, and it was managed by several actors, including Mannerheim League for Child Welfare, Victim Support Finland, Save the Children, Loisto Settlement, Youth Exit, City of Helsinki, and City of Oulu. As one measure, Koordinaatti published a situation report based on various surveys in September 2020 on the then current situation regarding sexual harassment, sexual attraction and sexual violence faced by children and young people in Finland. The report highlights a need for information on legislation, digitalisation, emotional and safety skills, and points out four developmental needs for the field:
- Harmonising the terminology from the point of view of the rights of the child
- Improving multiprofessional and cross-administrative cooperation
- Training of professionals and a concrete plan for working communities
The Finnish Safer Internet Centre (FISIC) is a joint project of three individual organisations: the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), Save the Children Finland (STC) and the Mannerheim League for Child Welfare (MLL). Each organisation has an established role in Finnish society and strong national and international relations. The main national supporter of the project is the Ministry of Culture and Education.”
See also some e-materials in English about the methods used in the ‘Media Literacy Weeks’. The Media Literacy School helps teachers and other professional educators discuss about the media with children, youth and guardians. The project is co-financed by the European Union.