Media literacy is one of key skills of the ХХІ century that facilitates both critical thinking and resilience of a country as a whole. The welfare of an entire country, especially during a war or other extreme situations, may depend on the ability of every resident to critically analyze information that he/she has received.
According to the survey “Media Literacy Index of Ukrainians” conducted by “Detector media” NGO, 48% out of 2000 respondents have below average level of media literacy, i.e. 15% of Ukrainians have a low level of media literacy while 33% have below average level. It should be noted that there is a big percentage of people aged 56-65 among those who have a low level of media literacy. They comprise 45% of respondents with the low level. At the same time, people under 46 (53%) and older (47%) have below average level of media literacy. Two key factors are the reason for such a distribution. The first one is education. The above mentioned age groups have general secondary education or secondary professional education. The second factor is that their personalities were formed in the USSR where nobody had heard about media literacy given massive propaganda and manipulations.
Media literacy becomes increasingly growing issue in digital age when social media and the Internet are the main sources of information. For instance, according to the research “Ukraine: Media Consumption and Perceptions Research” carried out by Thomson Reuters Foundation, the main sources of information for adult population of Ukraine are search engines (80% of respondents out of the sample of 515 persons use them), social networks – 72% of respondents consume information via social networks, and information media sites and Internet media – 70% of respondents. At the same time, 67% of respondents use television for consuming information instead. This distribution shows the predominance of digital media over traditional ones. It also indicated new challenges when media literacy is increasingly relevant given huge flows of information in the digital environment and the lack of adequate content moderation in the Internet and social networks. This problem is particularly acute among elderly people. For example, a Facebook user from the US who is over 65 years old spreads seven times more publications from outlets with fake news than Americans aged 18-29. In addition, elderly people spread two times more fakes compared to another age group (45-65 years). This situation is further complicated by the fact that resilience to so-called “illusion of truth”,the tendency to believe that information is true when we see or hear it several times, decreases with age. So one of the biggest challenges as well as a perspective of developing media literacy in Ukraine is its development among persons of middle (44+) and old (60+) age. In addition, the country does not have comprehensive state programs of media literacy where people of middle and old age would be target audiences. Moreover, there are not so many civil society initiatives on media literacy aimed at these age groups. One of such initiatives is “How Not to Turn Into a Vegetable”.
Experience of the Nordic countries, especially that of Sweden and Finland, would be useful for Ukraine. For instance, Sweden has an online-portal “Mediekompass", that, among others, contains education materials for people of middle and old age. These materials are usually focused on media literacy experts who work or are willing to work with these age groups. These materials include methodological recommendations based on how people of middle and old age perceive information.
Finland has a special education project Netikäs, hat is organized by the Finnish Pensioners’ Federation. The project contains a number of materials on media literacy both for people of middle and old age.
In general, the Nordic experience shows that the issue of media literacy should be dealt with in a differentiated manner, i.e. given peculiarities of a target audience and of how they perceive information. This will help to elaborate the best information materials both for the target audience and media literacy experts who will teach this target audience.Media Literacy Education at Schools and Beyond
The reform of Ukrainian school known as the “New Ukrainian School” provides mastering media literacy skills. However, media literacy has not been introduced in basic education programmes yet. This makes it difficult to carry out systemic education of media literacy at schools that should be conducted on the basis of interdisciplinarity. For example, Estonia that is ranked third in the Media Literacy Index 2021 has 8 interdisciplinary topics related to media literacy in its school programs. In addition, the general approach to education in Estonia is defined as “the key component in dealing with the post-truth phenomenon”.
Media literacy education at schools is important. However, some elements of media literacy may be introduced in kindergartens as it is the case in Finland that has been ranked first regarding media literacy in Europe since 2017, according to the Media Literacy Index 2021. This will provide more effectiveness of further media literacy education at schools and will form a basis of societal resilience to disinformation in the long-term perspective because the actual level of media literacy is quite low in Ukraine now. For instance, according to the USAID-Internews 2020 Media Consumption Survey in Ukraine, only 3% of respondents (out of the sample of 1213 people) managed to correctly identify whether the all suggested three messages were true or false while 48% managed to correctly identify only one message. At the same time, 49% failed the task (21% did not correctly identify any message and 28% could not give an answer). So introduction of media literacy starting from elementary education with its further mastering at schools would change the situation with media literacy for the better in Ukraine and would make Ukrainians more resilient to disinformation and manipulations.
That is why the team iDemocracy recommends the Ministry of Education of Ukraine to elaborate and introduce basics of media literacy in kindergartens and media literacy at schools. At the same time, we recommend the Ministry of Culture and Information Policy to introduce special education courses on media literacy for people of middle and old age within the national project on media literacy “Filter” as this is the issue of resilience and information security for the entire society and the country as a whole.