6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media
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At the beginning of 2020, the Government of the Republic of Serbia adopted a new Strategy for the Development of the Public Information System in the Republic of Serbia for the period 2020 – 2025. The strategy does not point out young people as a separate target group, but it does not exclude them either. The strategy involves improving media literacy by continuing the process of introducing media literacy into the formal education system, as well as developing the competencies of teachers and professors. The Ministry of Culture and Information with partners, the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, the Ministry of Youth and Sports, Commissioner for Equality Protection and Regulatory Authority of Electronic Media (REM) are responsible for the implementation. Holders of the concrete measures will be known when the Action plan is developed. As the Strategy is newly adopted no monitoring or revisions have been conducted.
The overall objective of another newly adopted Strategy of Digital Skills Development for the period 2020 - 2024 is to improve the digital knowledge and skills of all citizens including members of vulnerable social groups and youth. Some of the measures the strategy entails are:
- Aligning the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) with the European Qualifications Framework (EQF) regarding digital skills;
- Improving curricula related to digital competencies in pre-university education;
- Accreditation of training programmes for the development of digital skills of citizens
- Encouraging organizations and institutions that have acquired the status of Publicly Recognized Organizers of Activities (PROA) to implement programmes for the acquisition of professional competences in the field of digital skills;
- Establishment of various training models for the development of citizens' digital skills within public spaces, "traveling" trainings, as well as online training programmes through mass open online trainings (MOOCs);
- Fostering organisation of Trainig for Trainers (ToT), while encouraging all forms of peer education for developing citizens' digital skills;
- Promote peer-to-peer (P2P) education and exchange of good practices through the organization of events, professional publications and the development of online portals;
- Raising citizens' awareness of the need to adopt digital skills;
- Conducting an educational campaign for children on safe internet use and use of modern technologies (IT Caravan);
- Providing continuous support to children and parents about smart and safe use of the Internet (through the National Contact Center for child safety on the Internet) etc.
The 5th goal of the National Youth Strategy 2015-2025 related to youth safety refers to supporting programs that empower young people to recognize and adequately respond to digital violence, i.e. violence resulting from the use of information technology. The Strategy predicted 15 supported activities / projects (including IT education campaigns to promote useful, creative and secure use of information technology). The Action plan name the ministries in charge of education and youth and sport to carry out measures related to this goal. For the period 2018-2020 17.520.000 RSD was predicted for these activities. Evaluation of the National Youth Strategy (2015-2025) Action Plan 2015-2017 states that by 2017, the execution percentage for this activity was 40%.
In Serbia, there is no explicit policy on media literacy in the formal education system, rather it has been recognized as a broader concept of functional literacy. In the Strategy for Development of Education in Serbia by 2020 it is viewed in the context of key competences and lifelong learning and as such, in past decades it was a part of different reforms and was integral part of inclusive education reform, introduction of citizenship education, introduction of professional development and training programmes for teachers etc.
At the level of primary and secondary education, media and information literacy are incorporated in the optional subject Citizenship Education. The subject is optional in relation to Religious education and counts 36 hours per year.
Moreover, since the school year 2018/2019, the subject "Language, Media and Culture" was introduced into the general and some vocational upper secondary schools as optional subject in the first two grades. Upon completion of the programme, pupils should be able to:
- critically consider the positive and negative impact of the media;
- assess the importance and impact of information and sources of information and connect them with own experience to solve different situations;
- recognizes examples of manipulation, discrimination and hate speech in the media and has a critical attitude towards them;
- understands the responsibility for creation of his/ hers own media messages;
- communicates in a constructive way;
- expresses readiness to participate in actions aimed at promoting media culture;
- distinguishes cultural from popular content and on that basis makes value judgments.
Some of the issues related to media literacy have also been covered in mother tongue classes. When dealing with media, these subjects are mostly focused on strengthening critical thinking. Digital literacy on the other side, should be included in the teaching of the subject Technical education and technology in addition to another optional subject Informatics and Computer Science. Within these subjects, students are expected to acquire the necessary technical competence to master skills and form attitudes that contribute to the development of computer literacy. In addition, it is expected to equip students with the skills and knowledge to efficiently and rationally use computers in a way that does not endanger their physical and mental health.
When it comes to higher education, more than 100 study programmes include courses in the fields of media education or education for media in HEs in Serbia. Some of them are developed for education experts and teachers.
In 2017, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology has embarked on an consultation process, which ended with the adoption of the Digital Competence Framework – Teacher for a Digital Age. The Framework was updated in 2019. It was created with the aim of supporting teachers from the education system of the Republic of Serbia in the process of integrating digital concepts, tools, and content into everyday educational practice.
The official Catalogue of the accredited programmes of teachers, educators and professional associates’ continuous professional development by the Institute for Improvement of Education, offers a range of seminars covering the topics in media literacy and ICT. Many of these programs and seminars are offered by accredited civil society organizations, professional associations and regional centres for the development of educational employees.
The Strategy of Digital Skills Development for the period 2020 - 2024 defines the development of digital skills as a necessary response to the emergence of new technologies and their impact on the digital society and digital economy, and implies the skills needed for employment, productivity, creativity and success, with information security and online safety. As an important medium for achieving this, the Strategy has recognized non-formal education as it allows greater innovation and up-to-date opportunities compared to formal education system. In this sense it is perceived as an easier, faster, better and much cheaper way to acquire current knowledge. Collaboration between formal education and businesses is seen as the necessary effort to bridge the gap between education and training, on the one hand, and the needs and demands of the labour market, on the other.
Besides above mentioned accredited programmes of continuous professional development for teachers provided by the Institute for Improvement of Education, the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications encourages the development of the information society through programmes and projects under the common slogan "Smart and Safe". The aim of these activities is to educate and raise awareness of the need for prompt, proper and targeted involvement of citizens, the education system and the economy in modern digital streams.
Many civil society organisations deal with this topic and two active projects by National Youth Council of Serbia (KOMS) are aimed at media and digital literacy as well as online safety.
- MLADI – Media Literacy Alliance and Digital Importance
The EuropAid project activities are aimed at improving the media and digital literacy of young people and providing them with the necessary tools and channels to express their opinions to a wider audience. Research on the image and perspective of reporting on youth in the media will be conducted within the project, and in addition projects and initiatives of youth associations and for young people will be supported with the aim of improving the media and digital literacy of young people.
- Mladi mediji – mediji sa mladima i za mlade (Young media: media with and for the youth)
Young media: media with and for the youth is a multi-year project implemented by KOMS in collaboration with DW Academy and other media organizations. The project activities are aimed at empowering young people to critically consume media content, enhancing the capacity of the media to cover topics of relevance to young people through youth participation in media production and evaluation. During the three-year implementation period, KOMS has also established regular research activities in the field of youth media literacy, providing data on youth representation in media and ways of reporting on youth.
In July 2020, Nova Iskra organizedYouth Media Hub, a training in media and digital literacy, intended for young people aged 16 to 22 who want to improve the technical, critical and digital literacy necessary for critical perception and interpretation of our modern (media) environment. The training is implemented within the Joint Regional Programme "Dialogue for the Future", implemented by UNDP, UNICEF and UNESCO, and funded by the UN Peacebuilding Fund (UN PBF).
National Contact Centre For Online Safety of Childrenwas established in 2017. Through this center, the Ministry of Trade, Tourism and Telecommunications advises children, parents, students and teachers, as well as all other citizens, on the benefits and risks of using the Internet and safe ways to use new technologies through various awareness-raising activities. The Centre also conducts education on children's safety on the Internet by organizing seminars, workshops, presentations and information through print, electronic and other media. It is also possible to receive reports of harmful, inappropriate and illegal content and behaviour on the Internet, or to report threats to the rights and interests of the child. Competent institutions are involved in processing applications and responding: the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Prosecutor's Office for high-tech crime, the Ministry of Education, Science and Technological Development, Centres for Social Work and Health Centres.
National Contact Centre educators designed interactive presentations aimed at children and parents. Thus, began a program campaign called the IT caravan. It is an educational campaign to promote the useful, creative and secure use of information technology. It was organized for the first time in mid-2016 and its fourth cycle is underway in 2020. These lectures held throughout Serbia were attended by more than 11,000 pupils and 3,800 parents. In April 2019, an extensive media campaign for children’s safety on the Internet "Your Internet Number - 19833" was launched, promoting the protection of children on the Internet and the National Contact Centre.
Serbia is a member of the Insafe network of centres for safer internet which with support of the Better internet for Kids – BIK programme conducts educational and awareness campaigns, leads counselling lines - helpline support services for children, and works closely with young people through panels to provide evidence-based practice and access to stakeholders.
Serbia, as part of various Internet safety awareness campaigns, is also participating in activities to mark Safer Internet Day. This day was established in 2004 and is celebrated under the auspices of the Insafe Network in 140 countries worldwide.