6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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Enabling pupils to exercise their citizenship in a society of information, forming enlightened citizens capable of analysing and criticising the media and its content is one of the aims of the Ministry of Education, which has introduced “Media and information literacy” (EMI – Education aux médias et à l’information). The subject is incorporated into compulsory schooling programmes at primary and lower secondary schools – i.e. at cycles two, three and four (Special Bulletin Officiel of 26 November 2015). In its 1st section, the Framework Law on the Future of Schools (loi d'orientation et de programmation pour la refondation de l'école de la République) of 8 July 2013 (see Eurydice Overall national education strategy and key objectives) defines media literacy as scholastic training that “develops the knowledge, skills and culture required for the exercise of citizenship in the contemporary society of information and communication […]”.
In a digital revolution context and in response to the dissemination of false information, media and information literacy (éducation aux médias et à l’information, EMI) is becoming a necessity. It aims at developing a critical appropriation of the media in a school setting to allow the young audience to make responsible use of the media and perceive its interest as well as its limitations and dangers. The aim is to “allow pupils to exercise their citizenship in an information and communication society, and to train active, enlightened and responsible “cybercitizens” of tomorrow”.
Media literacy is based on training in the use of digital tools and resources and raising awareness of rights and duties connected with use of the internet and social networks. Skills acquired in the context of such education should be assessed progressively.
Among those involved in media literacy, the Centre for Media and Information Literacy (CLEMI - Centre pour l'éducation aux médias et à l'information), an operator under the Ministry of National Education, is tasked with implementing training actions promoting the use of information resources in education with a view to fostering pupils’ better understanding of the world around them.
The Canopé network, an operator under the Ministry of National Education, provides teachers with a range of training courses and teaching resources in the fields of media and digital education, as well as ”cybercitizenship”.
Moreover, the use of social networks by young people is regularly studied by the National Institute for Youth and Non-Formal Education (INJEP), a department attached to the Department for Youth, Non-Formal Education and Voluntary Organisation (DJEPVA), which has published various articles and reports on young people’s use of digital technology.
The main instrument made use of by the Minister of National Education, which aims to teach children how to decode information and show proof of vigilance with regard to media and the internet, is the Media and information literacy (EMI – Education aux médias et à l’information) programme, which aims to create “cybercitizens”.EMI is not a completely separate discipline but a cross-cutting training that teachers are encouraged to provide, with teacher-librarians as referents.
The objective of media and information literacy is to:
- Develop pupils’ critical spirit and judgement,
- Familiarise pupils with the world of media,
- Open pupils up to current affairs and the world,
- Have them discover media diversity and plurality,
- Teach them to process and “decode” information,
- Introduce them to creating their own media.
The themes tackled by media and information literacy are many and varied, as can be seen in the best practices listed by institutional educational networks. For example:
History/geography classes in schools under the Dijon (city) Education Authority studied:
In language classes, themes dealt with include the “dangers” of the internet:
- “Harassment over the internet” (le harcèlement par internet)
- “Media addiction” (l’addiction aux media)
- “Internet safety, social networks and harassment” (Sécurité sur internet, media sociaux, harcèlement)
Teachers can obtain training in media literacy, which is now incorporated in disciplinary programmes. Various online schemes and resource centres have been set up, such as the Parcours M@gistère, a tutored interactive ongoing training scheme intended for secondary school teachers and MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) on media literacy.
In addition, the Centre for Media and Information Literacy (CLEMI - Centre pour l’éducation aux médias et à l’information) provides several types of educational interventions and accompaniments: teacher training, 5-day courses on media and information literacy, talks, activities and advice, roundtables devoted to media and information literacy, etc. As regards the dangers connected with internet use, teachers have an information and resource portal devoted to the subject available to them: “Responsible Internet” (Internet responsable), which, among other things, lists the regulatory texts on data protection, internet law, cyber-harassment, etc.
The Week of the press and media at School is one of the tools for information education. It aims to help pupils from nursery school to upper secondary school to: understand the media system, develop their critical judgement, develop their taste for news, and forge their citizen identity. The teachers in the registered primary and secondary schools participate with their pupils in this operation organised by the Centre for Media and Information Literacy (Centre pour l’éducation aux médias et à l’information, CLEMI)
As Ministry of National Education partners, operators in non-formal education also foster media and information literacy via various initiatives. Associations have set up digital education projects in the context of Territorial Educational Projects (PEDTs – see 6.2 Cross-sectoral cooperation). Not all such initiatives have been inventoried but, as an example, the Ligue de l’ Enseignement (Education League) association (in Loire-Atlantique) organises workshops on the internet and coding and has mounted an exhibition on the subject of image manipulation.
Furthermore, the Ministry of Culture also promotes media education through a call for projects aimed at youth workers, educators, librarians, journalists, and civic service volunteers. The purpose of this call for projects is the design and development of training offers for trainers or interveners as well as the production, dissemination and enhancement of quality teaching tools.
The aim of this initiative is to:
- “provide the keys to understanding scientific method and reasoning”;
- “strengthen the capacity to analyse the information circulated (by the media, Internet and social networks)”;
- “develop critical thinking, which is essential for the dual development of a scientific and technical culture and an information culture”;
- “decode fake news, deconstruct conspiracy theories and hateful content, while understanding the journalistic work, the functioning of media and digital ecosystems”.
Apart from this initiative and via the Youth Experimentation Fund (FEJ - Fond d’expérimentation pour la jeunesse, see.1.7 Evidence-based youth policies), the Ministry of Youth Affairs launched a call for projects on “Non-Formal Education for and by young people: Digital practices, innovative places and youth media” with a view to fostering “cyber-citizenship” and creation of innovative places and youth media. 334 projects were presented by associations, local authorities and public institutions. 52 projects were selected.
Preventing the risks posed by new media is an action focus of media and information education.
The CLEMI has listed online resources providing advice to adolescents on the social networks. These resources are intended for teachers, adolescents, as well as their parents.
Resource website: https://eduscol.education.fr/2682/safer-internet-day
Campaigns against cyber-harassment have been launched by the Ministry of National Education in partnership with the e-Enfance association, of recognised public interest and approved by the Ministry of National Education. This association raises young people’s awareness on best practices in digital technology and advises parents and education professionals on the uses of digital technology. The association offers a free helpline and interventions in secondary education establishments and launches annually a campaign against harassment, in particular cyber-harassment.
Moreover, since 2016, Family Allowances Funds and their partners, the Mutualité sociale agricole (Msa) and the ministry in charge of youth, have launched across the country a scheme entitled “Promeneurs du net, une présence éducative sur Internet” (Web walkers, an educational presence on the Internet).
A Web Walker is a youth professional, educator or facilitator, who in addition to his work in a structure, enters into contact with young people via the Internet and the social networks to support them in their use of Internet and raise awareness of risks. Applying a logic of prevention, he listens, advises and supports them.
Moreover, each year in February, the Safer Internet Day is organised and coordinated by Safer Internet France. This awareness-raising day, deployed in 150 countries, promotes a better Internet for young people. It is a not-to-be missed event in the area of prevention and digital awareness intended in particular for pupils and education professionals.
In 2021, the theme of this day is “the use of digital technology and screens: supporting young people in times of Covid-19”.