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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media

Last update: 22 January 2021

LAST MODIFIED ON: 25/10/2020 - 22:50

On this page
  1. National strategy
  2. Media literacy and online safety through formal education
  3. Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning
  4. Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media

National strategy

There is no standalone strategy addressing media literacy. In October 2017, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) introduced the Internet Safety Strategy green paper, which came out as the result of the consultation with a wide range of stakeholders with a focus on online safety. It covered a range of topics such as stressing a commitment to develop children and young people’s digital literacy.The strategy also commits the Government to continuing to collaborate with industry, working with voluntary sector organisations such as the Internet Watch Foundation, to eradicate online child sexual exploitation.In its response to the green paper, the government recognises the importance of working closely with the private sector, as it believes that companies need to take a more proactive approach in dealing with harmful content.

The UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS)  is a collaborative forum through which the government, the tech community and the third sector work together to create a safe online environment for all, including young people. It is part of the Department for Culture, Media and Society (DCMS), the Department for Education (DfE) and the Home Office. It expands the scope of the previous UK Council for Child Safety. One of its priority areas is online harms experienced by children and young people including cyber bullying and sexual exploitation.

Measures in the Digital Economy Act 2017, introduced age checks for pornographic websites so under-18s cannot view harmful content – with powers to block sites which refuse to comply.

The Government has issued statutory guidance to schools and colleges on their duty to keep pupils and students safe:

As schools and colleges increasingly work online, it is essential that children are safeguarded from potentially harmful and inappropriate online material. As such, governing bodies and proprietors should ensure appropriate filters and appropriate monitoring systems are in place (p.22).

See also Annex C on ‘Online Safety’ p.96..

Ofsted, the inspectorate, requires its inspectors to consider evidence in its inspections of schools and colleges that:

  • action is taken to ensure that children are taught about safeguarding risks, including online risks
  • staff, leaders and managers oversee the safe use of electronic and social media by staff and learners and take action immediately if they are concerned about bullying or risky behaviours
  • appropriate filters and monitoring systems are in place to protect learners from potentially harmful online material.

Inspectors should:

include online safety in their discussions with children and learners (covering topics such as online bullying and safe use of the internet and social media). Inspectors should investigate what the school or further education and skills provider does to educate pupils in online safety and how the provider or school deals with issues when they arise.

Responsibility for media literacy, digital competences and safe use of new media involves several government departments and agencies.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) is responsible for media and for young people; the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Minister for Sport, Tourism and Heritage is the minister responsible for domestic online safety issues.

The Home Office has responsibility for cyber security and counter-terrorism.

The Department for Education has responsibilities for the school curriculum, education programmes and safeguarding and Ofsted for inspecting the arrangements for these at school and college level.

Under the Communications Act 2003Ofcom (the Office of Communications), the independent regulator and competition authority for the UK communications industries, has a responsibility to promote, and to carry out research in, media literacy.


Media literacy and online safety through formal education

Digital competencies are developed through the subject ‘computing’ in the National Curriculum, introduced in 2014, and replacing the subject Information and Communication Technology. Computing is a compulsory subject throughout compulsory education, from age 5 to 16 in maintained schoolsAcademies are not obliged to follow the National Curriculum, but use it as a benchmark.

One of the purposes of the study of computing is to ensure that:

pupils become digitally literate – able to use, and express themselves and develop their ideas through, information and communication technology – at a level suitable for the future workplace and as active participants in a digital world.

One of the aims is to ensure that pupils ‘are responsible, competent, confident and creative users of information and communication technology’.

From the first year of primary education (age 5 to 6), pupils are introduced to the safe use of technology and to how to protect their privacy and identity online. At Key Stage 3 (ages 11-14), students should be taught to understand a range of ways to use technology safely, respectfully, responsibly and securely, including protecting their online identity and privacy; recognise inappropriate content, contact and conduct and know how to report concerns.

At Key Stage 4 (ages 14-16) students should be taught to: understand how changes in technology affect safety, including new ways to protect their online privacy and identity, and how to identify and report a range of concerns.

The most common qualifications taken by students at the end of Key Stage 4, GCSEs, align, for each subject, with their related programme of study. While the computing programme of study is compulsory at Key Stage 4, it is entirely a matter of student choice and course availability as to whether or not a qualification in GCSE computing is taken.

Pedagogical tools

Resources for teachers are available from several organisations.The UK Safer Internet Centre is a partnership of three organisations: SWGfL (South West Grid for Learning), Childnet International and the Internet Watch Foundation. It provides a collection of its own resources for teachers and resources from other relevant organisations.

SwGfL, one of the partner organisations in the UK Safer Internet Centre, also makes a large collection of resources freely available. It has developed a self-review online tool, 360 Degree Safe, for schools to review their online safety provision and to develop an action plan to bring about improvements.

The Government provides grant funding to the Network of Teaching Excellence in Computer Science to help teachers and school leaders build their knowledge and understanding of technology.


Promoting media literacy and online safety through non-formal and informal learning

The Government’s digital strategy, published in March 2017, mentions some innovative initiatives outside the formal curriculum which provide young people with opportunities to develop their digital skills. For example, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is providing low-cost, high performance computers to learners alongside outreach and education to make more young people access computing and digital making.

The BBC Make it Digital programme partnered with over 25 organisations to provide the micro:bit (a pocket sized codeable computer) to every child in year 7 (aged 11) to inspire them to develop their interest and digital creativity. The micro:bit helps children to start learning basic coding and programming. The Make it Digital Traineeship is a nine week traineeship for young unemployed people to help them boost their digital skills and access the job market. 

The Government is supporting the National Citizen Service (NCS see ‘National programme for youth volunteering’ in the article on ‘youth volunteering at national level’) and the Raspberry Pi Foundation ​to take forward a pilot that will test new ways to include digital skills and careers in NCS programmes. This could include hands-on coding experience, digital making, digital entrepreneurship and contact with creative technology-focused businesses to inspire participants to consider a career in the sector.

CEOP is the child protection command of the National Crime Agency. The CEOP Command’s Thinkuknow programme provides resources, training and support for professionals who work directly with children and young people, including those in youth work and non-formal settings. Training provided by CEOP includes’ Keeping Children Safe Online’, an introductory e-learning course for professionals. Those who complete the course and who register for access to CEOP’s Thinkuknow educational resources are awarded Thinkuknow Trainer status, with access to its full range of resources for delivery to young people and parents/carers.

Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media

The UK Council for Child Internet Safety (UKCCIS) was a group of more than 200 organisations drawn from across government, industry, law, academia and charity sectors that worked in partnership to help keep children safe online. It has since been taken over by the UK Council for Internet Safety (UKCIS) which expands the scope of the previous UK Council for Child Safety.  In 2016, UKCCIS it published Sexting in schools and colleges: Responding to incidents and safeguarding young people.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance provides information resources to young people on various aspects of bullying, including cyberbullying such as advice on how to make complaints, as well as advice for young people, schools and teachers

In 2016, Childnet International issued cyberbullying guidance funded by the UK Government Equalities Office and the European Union, which showed schools how to embed cyberbullying in their anti-bullying work.

The UK Safer Internet Centre exists to promote the safe and responsible use of technology for young people.  It is a partnership of three leading organisations: the South West Grid for Learning (SWGfL), Childnet International and the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF). The centre has three main functions:

  • Awareness Centre: to provide advice and support to children and young people, parents and carers, schools and the children's workforce and to coordinate Safer Internet Day (see below) across the UK
  • Helpline: to provide support to professionals working with children and young people with online safety issues
  • Hotline: an anonymous and safe place to report and remove child sexual abuse imagery and videos, wherever they are found in the world.

Safer Internet Day is celebrated globally in February each year to promote the safe and positive use of digital technology for children and young people and inspire a national conversation.Coordinated in the UK by the UK Safer Internet Centre, the celebration sees hundreds of organisations get involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.The day offers the opportunity to highlight positive uses of technology and to explore the role played by young people, parents, carers, teachers, social workers, law enforcement, companies, policymakers and others in helping to create a better and safer online community. Events and activities are run across the UK.

A  concern about the risks posed by social media is that of radicalisation. Building young people’s resilience and the promotion of fundamental British values includes ensuring they are protected from the threat of extremist and ideological views and materials online. In 2015, the Government issued new advice to all schools and childcare providers to coincide with the new prevent duty introduced as part of the Counter-Terrorism and Security Act 2015, which legally requires a range of organisations including schools, colleges, universities, local and other public bodies to take steps to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism).

At the same time, it issued a guidance document, How Social Media is Used to Encourage Travel to Syria and Iraq: Briefing Note for Schools.