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EACEA National Policies Platform


6. Education and Training

6.8 Media literacy and safe use of new media

Last update: 25 January 2021
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

The Scottish Government published its National Action Plan on Internet Safety for Children and Young People in 2017.

The actions include:

  • The Scottish Government will work to ensure children and young people are supported to build their own resilience online.
  • Through their Digital Learning and Teaching Programme, Education Scotland will support local authorities in implementing the new Technologies Curriculum guidance, which has a specific focus on digital literacy.
  • Education Scotland will ensure inspectors are aware of the expectation to deliver education that encourages innovation, confidence and responsibility in the use of technologies and staying safe online.
  • The Scottish Government and Education Scotland will work with the South West Grid for Learning to promote and update the 360 degree safe tool.
  • Education Scotland will work with Digital Schools Awards Scotland to develop a link to relevant resources on internet safety for children and young people.
  • The Scottish Government will consider what resources are available within youth work organisations on internet safety and whether more can be done to build on and amplify good practice, for consistency, with resources available across Scotland.

The Scottish Government and Education Scotland are mainly responsible for implementation, in partnership with other bodies such as the NHS, Police Scotland and third sector organisations.

The digital learning and teaching strategy for Scotland, published in 2016, focuses on how teaching and learning can be enhanced through the use of digital technologies and the acquisition of digital skills. Digital literacy, however, is also included, defined as encompassing the skills to use technology to engage in learning through managing information, communicating and collaborating, problem-solving and being creative, and the appropriate and responsible use of technology

It also includes as a key action for educators to ‘ensure that all learners become resilient users of digital technology and can stay safe online’ (p.7). In a section on ‘The Importance of Cyber Resilience’, it states that the Scottish Government and Education Scotland will work with education providers and local authorities to ensure that learners and educators are fully aware of the importance of being digitally resilient. This means not only having the technical measures in place for online security, but also teaching learners and educators to be prepared for online threats and ensuring that they can respond and recover if they are encountered.

The digital learning and teaching strategy aligns with the all-age cyber resilience strategy for Scotland. ‘Education, Skills and Professional Development’ is one of the four strategic themes it covers. The priorities under this theme include:

  • Every child, young person and adult must have the cyber resilience skills for learning, life and work – to be able to protect him/herself online and achieve the full benefits of a digital economy.
  • In learning settings, relevant curricula should drive the development of skills which will help learners to become more cyber resilient.
  • Most jobs require knowledge, understanding and skills in digital technology, and this will only continue to grow. Training in all vocational areas, not just digital occupations, must include learning outcomes related to cyber resilience.
  • To be successful in integrating cyber resilience at all ages and stages of education, from pre-school to post-employment, teachers and trainers must have the skills, knowledge and understanding to teach cyber resilience. Appropriate learning materials and guidance are required for educators, in both formal and non-formal learning contexts.

The Scottish Government, Education Scotland and local authorities are responsible for implementing both of the above strategies, with the involvement of appropriate private, public and third sector partners.The strategies have not yet been evaluated or revised.

Under the Communications Act 2003, Ofcom (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. This research covers both adults’ (16+) and children’s media literacy.

Scotland is represented on the executive board for the UK Council for Child Internet Safety which is chaired by UK ministers and includes representation from a number of organisations from the public, private and voluntary sectors.

Media literacy and online safety through formal education

There is no statutory curriculum in Scotland. The curriculum framework, Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), allows local authorities to adopt their own curricular models for their schools, while adhering to the tenets of CfE and making provision for eight curricular subject areas.

In the senior phase (ages 16-18), students move on from the broad general education provided for 3- to 15-year-olds, to more specialisation in working towards taking National Qualifications (see subheading 'Certification‘ in the article 'Assessment in General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education' in Eurydice's national description for Scotland for details of qualifications).

A broad range of options is offered in the senior phase and students have much greater freedom of subject choice than in the earlier phase. Pathways are designed by education institutions at local level to meet the needs of their learners. The precise number and range of qualifications on offer, as well as when they are taken, will be a decision for education institutions to take in consultation with pupils and parents.There is, therefore, no universal provision of media literacy and online safety education. It is a matter for student choice, given availability, whether a given course is followed or not. Relevant qualifications which may be offered include:

National Qualification in Media

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) offers National Qualifications in Media at various levels of the Scottish Credit and Qualifications Framework (SCQF) which provide learners with opportunities to develop theoretical knowledge of the media and to create media content.Learners who undertake these courses develop their media literacy skills and their knowledge of the key aspects of media literacy, as they learn to create media content that is planned and researched, fulfils a specific purpose and is appropriate to the context and target audience. They also develop their knowledge and understanding of the wider role that media plays in society. Depending on the level of qualification chosen, students learn the key aspects of media literacy central to an analysis of media content, ranging from a simple to a detailed and complex analysis and the key aspects of media literacy central to creating content at different levels of complexity.

NPA Digital Passport National Progression Awards (NPAs) assess a defined set of skills and knowledge in specialist vocational areas, linked to National Occupational Standards (see subheading 'Certification' in the article 'Assessment in General and Vocational Upper Secondary Education' in Eurydice's national description for Scotland for more detail about NPAs).

The NPAs in Digital Passport at SCQF levels 4, 5 and 6 introduce learners to digital literacy techniques that are important in contemporary society such as communication skills, critical analysis, productivity skills and technical skills.

These awards give students the opportunity to develop their knowledge and skills in handling information, in understanding and using computer networks, and in using social media safely, legally and ethically. Learners will also develop confidence and skills in using digital devices such as smartphones, tablets or laptops and they will gain an understanding of digital citizenship that includes educational, community, political and business aspects.The qualification is available through schools, colleges and training providers.

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

‘Be Smart’ is an online safety training programme within the wider 'Choices for Life’’ programme. Choices for Life is a joint Police Scotland and Young Scot initiative aimed at raising awareness amongst young people aged 11-18, about making positive lifestyle choices. The Be Smart Internet Safety Programme addresses the core vulnerabilities facing young people of cyber bullying, sexual content and their online profile.

Be Smart is delivered by Police Scotland on behalf of the Scottish Government using a peer-led approach. A team of young people (including senior school pupils), youth workers and parent groups ‘start the conversation’ with young people about online safety. These local groups then deliver training workshops to their peer groups in communities across Scotland.

CEOP operates across the UK and 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.Training 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 will be awarded Thinkuknow Trainer status, with access to its full range of resources for delivery to young people and parents/carers.

SWGfl offer online safety and digital citizenship training for educators in Scotland to facilitate their protection of young people online. 

Raising awareness about the risks posed by new media

respectme, Scotland’s anti-bullying service, is fully funded by the Scottish Government. It provides advice and resources on bullying, including cyberbullying and on staying safe online.

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 partnership was appointed by the European Commission as the Safer Internet Centre for the UK in 2011 and is one of the 31 Safer Internet Centres of the Insafe network. The centre has three main functions:

  1. 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
  2. Helpline: to provide support to professionals working with children and young people with online safety issues
  3. 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. In 2020, the theme was “Together for a Better Internet”. 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.Globally, Safer Internet Day is celebrated in over a hundred countries, coordinated by the joint Insafe/INHOPE network, with the support of the European Commission, and national Safer Internet Centres across Europe.