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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 - 23:17

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. National Children’s Bureau Northern Ireland (NCB NI) was commissioned by the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) to develop the first e-safety strategy and action plan for children and young people in Northern Ireland.

A draft of the e-strategy was published in March 2019. The core principles underpinning the draft strategy are:

  • all children and young people have the right to access and make use of the knowledge that the online world provides, as long as the information doesn’t cause harm to themselves or others;
  • all children and young people must be equally supported to stay safe online, regardless of where they live; and
  • all children and young people must be educated and empowered to access the online world safely, rather than restricted.


Media literacy and online safety through formal education

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and Assessment (CCEA) has taken the concepts behind three broad tiers of digital skills and applied them to the context of a learner within a school setting. CCEA wants to ensure that learners attending schools in Northern Ireland become:

  • Digital Citizens, with the skills that will enable them to take part in digital aspects of society, safely and without hindrance
  • Digital Workers, who are able to apply their digital skills to further their learning or in a work-related setting
  • Digital Makers, who are starting to build their own digital technology.

To illustrate how the curriculum can do this, CCEA has developed a framework that shows a clear progression of these digital skills for learners from foundation stage to A level and beyond.

School curriculum

The teaching of media literacy begins early in schools. 

Media awareness is a key element of the curriculum objective of developing pupils as contributors to society. The guidance suggests questions that might be posed to develop this key element:

  • In what ways does the media have an impact on my life?
  • How are language and image manipulated in different media?
  • What are the possibilities and limitations of communication using media technologies?
  • How can I communicate effectively using different media?
  • How can I stay safe in our media world?

Also relevant is the cross-curricular skill of ‘Using ICT’, a statutory requirement throughout secondary education. The guidance states that: ‘Across the curriculum, at a level appropriate to their ability, pupils should be enabled to develop skills to:[…] understand how to keep safe and display acceptable online behaviour.

At Key Stage 4 (students aged 14-16), as well as ‘Using ICT’, students should be given opportunities to develop Thinking Skills and Personal Capabilities. These are:

  • problem solving
  • self management
  • working with others.

Under problem solving, pupils demonstrate the ability to:

  • distinguish between fact and opinion and identify bias, propaganda and stereotyping in evidence from source material and the media
  • critically analyse evidence supporting issues/theories or media news coverage and its dependability, propose reasons why evidence is presented in this way 

Learning for Life and Work is a statutory area of learning at Key Stage 4. One of its contributory strands is ‘personal development’. Under this strand, pupils should be enabled to recognise, assess and manage risk in a range of real-life contexts, including the risks and benefits for a young person with regards to the media. Optionally, students may choose to take a GCSE qualification in Learning for Life and Work.

Again optionally, students may follow courses leading to a qualification in digital technology. The learning outcomes of the GCSE in Digital Technology, for first teaching in September 2017 include under ‘moral and ethical considerations’ that students should be able to describe the ethical impact of technology on society, referring to, for example, internet misuse and social media misuse.

The GCE A Level in Digital Technology, which began to be taught from September 2016, and which students may optionally study between the ages of 16 and 18, aims to encourage students to develop an understanding of the consequences of using digital technology on individuals, organisations and society, and of social, legal, ethical and other considerations of using digital technology.

Resources and training

The pedagogical tools used by teachers are a matter for the teacher or school to decide. However, detailed advice and guidance on eSafety is available to teachers within an eSafety Zone, available through C2k, the provider of information and communication services to schools.

The Council for the Curriculum, Examinations and assessment (CCEA) has a collection of resources to underpin eSafety in the curriculum.

Following registration, resources are also available free of charge from CEOP, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection command of the National Crime Agency. CEOP also provides training, but there is a charge for these courses.

Resources are also available from the Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) and from the Northern Ireland Anti-Bullying Forum.


The Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) in making judgements on the quality of provision in its inspections of post-primary schools includes as an example of effective practice that the taught personal and social curriculum (including e-safety) is effectively planned to meet the needs of the pupils and supports well their holistic development.

Within the ‘safeguarding’ category, effective practice is demonstrated when the staff monitor and assess the extent to which pupils know how to keep themselves safe (including online) and how to seek help.


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

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 (KCSO), 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

A number of different organisations, both governmental and non-governmental are working to raise awareness amongst children and young people. This includes both government departments and agencies and charities and other voluntary sector organisations.

The Safeguarding Board for Northern Ireland (SBNI) was set up in 2012 to coordinate efforts to ensure that children and young people were safeguarded. Two key issues which it focuses on are child sexual exploitation and e-safety. It has a help section for children and young people on its website.

Childline provides a counselling service for children and young people under 19 years of age, through the charity the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC). Its website includes sections on online and mobile safety, bullying and abuse.

The Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) raises awareness about e-safety issues and has produced a leaflet on Sexting and the Law.

The charity Barnardo’s provides a free DVD and resource pack, False Freedom, to all settings, including youth clubs, to alert young people to the dangers of sexual exploitation.

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 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.

In support of the global ‘Safer Internet Day’, which in 2018 had the theme ‘Create, Connect and Share Respect: A better internet starts with you’, the Education Authority announced the winners of its third Online Safety competition.