6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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Media literacy and online safety through formal education
Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning
Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media
The Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (Ministerie van Onderwijs, Cultuur en Wetenschap) is responsible for national policy on media. The national government helps parents and educators to educate children in dealing with media as outlined in this paragraph.
Dutch Digitalisation Strategy
There is no national strategy on media literacy and safe use of new media, but there is a general digitalisation strategy that pays attention to media literacy. Since 2018 all national policies concerning digitalisation are collected in the Dutch Digitalisation Strategy 2021 (Nederlandse Digitaliseringsstrategie 2021), in coherence with the Dutch Cyber Security Agenda (Nederlandse Cybersecutiry Agenda) and the Agenda Digital Government (Agenda Digitale Overheid: NL DIGIbeter). The Dutch Digitalisation Strategy 2021 focuses on artificial intelligence, the use of data, digital skills and inclusion, digital connectivity, digital resilience, digital governance and digital cooperation on different governmental levels. It specifically targets youth by increasing school curricula.
One aim of the strategy is that youngsters possess proper basic IT and information skills and are ‘media wise’ (in the Netherlands, media literacy is called ‘mediawijsheid’, which translates into media wisdom and which is defined as the ability to access media and to understand, critically evaluate, create and communicate media content). Digital literacy and practical skills will be incorporated in the new school curricula for primary and secondary education, that were still in development in 2021 (see paragraph 6.10). An action plan for the digitalisation of education is prepared, which should increase the quality of digital education. Teachers will receive targeted support and digital teaching resources will be improved. Another aim of the Dutch Digitalisation Strategy 2021 is that institutes for secondary vocational education and higher education improve students’ digital skills as well as the transition from education to the labour market. Among other things, lecturers are trained and supported to digitalise education. Lastly, in a living lab, the University of Tilburg (Universiteit van Tilburg) examines the influence of digital resources on the balance between work and private life, school performance, social relations and welfare. The aim is to further develop courses and other services to enhance digital skills.
Facts and figures
Use of social media among young people
According to Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau Statistiek CBS), almost all Dutch young people between 12 and 25 years old (99,7 percent in 2019) have access to internet facilities. 96 percent of Dutch youngsters used the internet (almost) every day in 2019 (compared to 93 percent in 2015). The use of laptops, tablets and mobile phones increased between 2014 and 2019, the use of PC’s and desktops decreased. 96 percent of the young people were active on social media, both in 2014 and 2019. Internet phone calls were clearly more common in 2019 (78 percent) than in 2014 (47 percent). Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat are popular social media platforms among Dutch youngsters. In 2018 girls used the internet more often for social networks than boys did.
Digital literacy rate
Young people between 12 to 25 years old have become more proficient in using the internet, computers and software compared to 2015, reported Statistics Netherlands (Centraal Bureau voor de Statistiek CBS). The digital competence of young people was determined by results in four sub-areas: Communication, information, computers/online services and software. Having more than one skill in a sub-area meant having more than basic skills in that sub-area. 72 percent of young people had more than basic skills in 2019, up from 63 percent in 2015. These rates are significantly higher than compared to the over-25s age category. In 2019, Dutch young people ranked second on digital literacy among European young people. Read more about the digital literacy rate on the website of Statistics Netherlands: More young people are digitally literate (Meer jongeren digitaal vaardig) (only in Dutch).
The Digital News Report the Netherlands 2021 (Digital News Report Nederland 2021) of the Dutch Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media) shows that in 2021, 9 out of 10 young people used social media to learn about the news, to spread news and to comment on news. Although mainstream media and professional journalists are the main news suppliers on social media like Twitter and Facebook, they compete with alternative news channels and influencers. Compared to senior citizens, young people visited news websites or apps less and more often used a search engine to visit a news website or to search for news items. Two-third of the young people between 18 and 24 years old used news collection websites to access news. 80 percent of young people weakly watched news video’s and two-third listened to podcasts monthly, mainly on Spotify and YouTube. The portion of young people that trusted news on social media increased slightly in 2021. Young people expected news media to pick a certain point of view in case of doubt, instead of staying neutral.
72 percent of the young people between 18 and 30 years old consider themselves capable of recognizing fake news, but thinks that only 16 percent of the other Dutchmen shares that capability. This is reported by the Dutch Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media) in The Digital News Report the Netherlands 2021 (Digital News Report Nederland 2021). More young people than senior citizens doubt the trustworthiness of the news and that number keeps growing. Doubt is young people’s basic attitude towards news. They have grown up with a large scale of digital resources and they do not trust any truth immediately, in principle. They consider trustworthiness as a process they own themselves, similar to defining ‘an opinion’ that can be adjusted based on new information.
However, in the Monitor Digital Literacy Secondary Education 2021 (Monitor Digitale Geletterdheid Voortgezet Onderwijs 2021), teachers in secondary education (with pupils between 12 and 18 years old) rate their pupils’ literacy skills a 5,5 on a scale from 0 to 10. This rate is even lower at schools with predominantly disadvantaged pupils: 4,1.
Media literacy and online safety through formal education
Dutch schools are not obliged to have media literacy and online safety education in their curriculum. Attention to digital literacy, including media literacy, in the current Dutch school curriculum is fragmented and not very coherent. Elements of media literacy (for example information skills, recognizing imaging and insight in the role of mass media in the political decision-making process), are part of the exam goals of the social studies class, an obliged subject for all pupils at secondary school (maatschappijleer VMBO, maatschappijleer HAVO, maatschappijleer VWO). The optional subject social science (maatschappijkunde in secondary vocational education and maatschappijwetenschappen havo and maatschappijwetenschappen vwo at the higher levels in secondary education) deepens the knowledge and skills obtained.
Although schools do not have an obligation to teach their pupils about media literacy and online safety, they are strongly advised to do so. Many schools are already working to improve the digital citizenship of their students. Meaning that students are aware of social media and use it in a responsible way. This also includes responsible citizenship with regard to the use of internet, cell phone and other media.
SLO (Stichting Leerplan Ontwikkeling) serves as the national institute for curriculum development for primary, special, secondary and vocational education in the Netherlands. Together with schools, SLO develops continuous learning in digital literacy that pays attention to media literacy, information literacy, computational thinking and basic IT skills. Curriculum frameworks have been created, so-called learning trajectories have been developed and appropriate teaching aids have been sought. SLO’s Digital Literacy Subject Portal (Vakportaal Digitale Geletterdheid) describes the latest developments.
SLO (Stichting Leerplan Ontwikkeling) is involved in the current development of the new school curricula for primary and secondary education, in which digital literacy will be included. The relevant bill is expected to be send to Parliament in 2024. See paragraph 6.10 for more information.
Dutch Media Literacy Network
The national government helps parents and educators to educate children in dealing with media. Therefore, the Dutch Media Literacy Network (Netwerk Mediawijsheid) was established in 2008 at the initiative of the government. The network aims to provide all Dutch citizens with a framework they can use to become more media literate in order to increase their full participation in society. Being ‘media literate’ means possessing the knowledge and skills to be able to function consciously, critically and actively in a multi-media world.
The Dutch Media Literacy Network helps children, young people, parents and educators to use media safely and responsibly. It also explains the possibilities to use media, organises public campaigns or workshops and carries out research on media use. The network is an expertise centre that links the activities of various organisations in the area of media literacy and promotes cooperation between them. The following five organizations are at the centre’s core:
Netherlands Institute for Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid - NIBG;
Information Society Platform (Platform voor de InformatieSamenleving - ECP) (only in Dutch);
National Library of the Netherlands, (Koninklijke Bibliotheek), Institute for the Public Libraries Sector;
Dutch Public Broadcasting Company (Nederlandse Publieke Opmroep – NPO).
These organisations all cover a specific area within the media literacy playing field: raising awareness, providing educational materials and manuals, giving workshops, having projects and doing research on the safe use of media. Additionally, the Dutch Media Literacy Network works with a growing number of network partners. Since 2008, more than 1,100 organisations have registered as network partners. Among the latter are libraries, schools, media producers, museums, research institutes, publishing companies and more. The free network membership enables these organisations to meet, exchange expertise and develop new initiatives.
The Dutch Media Literacy Network provides information to the public and media literacy professionals through three websites:
Mediawijsheid.nl: about safe and smart use of (digital) media. For each topic, visitors are pointed out to relevant organisations, companies and institutions for more information and/or help. The website aims to reach a broad audience of young people, adults, seniors, educators, caregivers, teachers and people working in government and semi-government, press and business. The website contains specific information for schools, as outlined below.
HoeZoMediawijs.nl: for fun, safe and smart use of (social) media, aimed at children and youngsters from 10 years old.
Netwerkmediawijsheid.nl: an online platform for network partners and other professionals in the field of media literacy.
Mediawijsheid.nl: information for schools
Mediawijsheid.nl (only in Dutch) provides information for school leaders and school boards on how to give media literacy a permanent place in the school:
Brochures, for example the ‘Manual Digital Literacy 2021-2022’ (Handboek Digitale Geletterdheid 2021-2022) for school boards.
Educational lessons (lesmateriaal) for professionals in childcare, primary education, secondary education, secondary vocational education, higher education and special needs education. Also lessons on specific subjects like cyber bullying and online manners, programming and computational thinking, news/fake news and information skills, copyright in relation to presentations and projects, use of smartphones for biology classes; digital images literacy.To know what a media literate pupil or student must know or be able to do, a competence model on media literacy has been developed: Mediawijsheid Competentiemodel.
On the website of Mediawijsheid two examples are given of search engines:
‘Your search engine’ (Jouwzoekmachine.nl) takes children’s reading level into account. It gives relevant information for 6 to 15 year olds.
Wikikids is a Wikipedia for children containing educational articles that are adjusted to their age.
Library and reading skills. The library is the expert area for searching, finding and critically assessing information. Two examples on the information libraries give about media literacy:
On Webdetective (only in Dutch) children learn to develop a critical view on information.
The website ‘Innovation library’ (Innovatiebieb.nl) (only Dutch) is a platform for libraries to share ideas, knowledge and materials about innovation and to learn from each other. Also examples of innovative projects and initiatives on media literacy are given, such as the Action programme ‘Count me in with language’ (Tel mee met taal, 2022) (only in Dutch) of the national government.
According to MediaWijsheid.nl reading skills are essential for media literacy. Libraries play an increasingly important role in stimulating, supporting and facilitating Dutch people in the area of (new) media. They will become the houses of media literacy.
Copyrights: On the website MediaWijsheid.nl information is also provided about copyrights (Auteursrechten) (only in Dutch) on internet and social media.
Do your digi-thing course (Doe je digiding)
Schools may use the teaching materials of the Digi Stronger Foundation (Stichting Digisterker). This foundations aims to support young people, adults and refugees in communicating digitally with the government and governmental organisations. The foundation has developed a training programme for young people from 15 until 18 years old in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) and secondary vocational education (MBO): Do your digi-thing! Youngsters and the digital government (Doe je digiding! Jongeren en de digitale overheid). Participants learn to apply for and to use DigiD (the digital identification method needed to make arrangements electronically with the government, educational institutes, healthcare institutions, et cetera), to apply for a passport or identity card, to file income tax returns, to apply for study grants and study travel cards, to apply for health insurance, to open a bank account, to shop online, to have their scooters and cars insured, et cetera.
Another way in which the national government helps parents and educators to educate children in dealing with media is through age classification of television programmes, movies and computer games. ‘Watch wisely’ (Kijkwijzer) warns parents about the age at which a programme or movie can be harmful to watch. All productions receive an age-related advice. Kijkwijzer uses symbols that show the topic of the advice, e.g. violent content, discrimination or use of foul language. The packaging of almost all computer games contains an age advice too: the international PEGI (Pan European Game Information). This advice points out until which age a game can be harmful, e.g. because it contains gambling, violence or foul language.
In addition, broadcasting companies have to take the young viewers’ age in consideration with their daytime programming: they can only broadcast programmes with the age advice of 12, 14 and 16 year after 8 PM and before 6 AM; programmes with the advice of 18 year should be broadcast after 12 PM and before 6 AM. Shops, cinemas and video libraries are not allowed to offer 16+ productions to young people below that age.
The Netherlands Institute for Classification of Audio-visual Media NICAM (Nederlands Instituut voor de Classificatie van Audiovisuele Media NICAM) develops the standards for the advice concerning age. NICAM also deals with complaints people might have about the wrong use of the Kijkwijzer advice producers might use. About 3,000 companies are members of NICAM, either directly or through branch organisations:
Public and commercial broadcasting companies
On demand services
Film distributors, DVD distributors and cinemas
Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning
The role of libraries
Many libraries organise activities to help citizens to use a computer and other devices. For example through drop-in consultations during which media coaches teach children, youngsters and adults about the possibilities and risks of digital media and devices. This to ensure that they can use apps, games and toys connected to the internet safely. Libraries may use the tools of the Digi-Things Desk (Digidingen-Desk) of the Digi Stronger Foundation (Stichting Digisterker) to establish drop-in consultation hours. As explained above, the foundation also has developed a training programme for young people in pre-vocational secondary education (VMBO) and secondary vocational education (MBO): Do your digi-thing! Youngsters and the digital government (Doe je digiding! Jongeren en de digitale overheid). Libraries, just like schools, offer this training programme.
The programme Library and basic skills (programma Bibliotheek en basisvaardigheden) of the National Library of the Netherlands (Koninklijke Bibliotheek) and the Foundation of Collaborative Provincial Support Institutes (Stichting Samenwerkende POI’s Nederland) supports libraries in organising these activities.
Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media
Tackling online bullying
In the annual ‘Week Against Bullying’ (Week Tegen Pesten), 18th to 22nd September 2017, the theme was: ‘Online bullying. Deal with it!’ During this week teachers were supported with tips and tools to prevent and tackle online bullying. They cooperated with parents, the school team and the students. The Dutch Media Literacy Network and its partners organised many activities to take place in that week. Some examples:
In the lesson 'Whatshappy' problems with chatting were discussed. It challenged students to make agreements on how they can communicate decently with each other.
The youth theatre show 'Like' by theatre group PlayBack was all about friendship, group pressure, being excluded, bullying and the influence of social media. Students were confronted with the emotional results of bullying.
Education as a means to enhance (online) fake news resilience among young people
After Donald Trump was elected 45th president of the United States of America, discussions started about the influence of (online) fake news, also in the Netherlands, showed the Dutch Media Authority (Commissariaat voor de Media) in its Media Monitor 2018 (Mediamonitor 2018). Following these discussions, the Dutch Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (Binnenlandse Zaken en Koninkrijksrelaties) took several measures to prevent and tackle disinformation and fake news as well as to raise awareness among citizens. An example of the latter is the online and radio campaign ‘Stay critical’ (‘Blijf kritisch’) around the provincial elections in 2019, aimed at the general public including young people. The Dutch Media Literacy Network (Netwerk Mediawijsheid) was granted a budget to develop initiatives to further increase media literacy among young people and adults. The network in collaboration with Kennisnet, Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid) and the Practical Lectorate Media Literacy (Practoraat Mediawijsheid) launched the ‘A good conversation about wrong information’ (‘Goed in gesprek over verkeerde informatie’) campaign targeted at young adults in training to work in education, care, welfare and media.
The circulation of fake news and disinformation increased to such levels during the corona virus pandemic that the World Health Organization called it an infodemic, an overabundance of information with deliberate attempts to disseminate wrong information. In response, the Dutch government informed the public in general: Why does fake news exist on social media (Waarom staat er nepnieuws op sociale media?), Check list ‘Is this information real?’ (Checklist ‘Is die informatie echt’?) and Tips for recognizing misinformation and false content (Tips om desinformatie en nepnieuws te herkennen).
Many Dutch organisations developed educational tools to enhance media literacy among youngsters. Three examples: Utrecht University (Universiteit Utrecht) and SIDN Fund (SIDN Fonds) developed a toolkit with, among other things, educational measures to increase media literacy. The School & Safety Foundation (Stichting School & Veiligheid) gives advice on its website about how to deal with tensions and discussions at school (Corona: spanning en discussie op school), for instance in case of pupils sharing conspiracy theories in the classroom (Complotten in de klas. Hoe ga je daar als docent mee om?). Sound and Vision (Nederlands Instituut voor Beeld en Geluid) offers workshops and training to teachers to support them in increasing their pupils’ media literacy concerning information about the corona virus and measures taken: Nepnieuws en desinformatie in tijden van corona. The workshops and training focus specifically on techniques and mechanisms behind news, fake news and disinformation as well as how to deal with an overload of information.