In the time of fake news, YouTubers and influencers, media literacy is important for children and their parents
In 2014, UNICEF and the Agency for Electronic Media (AEM) conducted research on the habits of television watching amongst children and young people. Parents responded to questions about the habits of 1,561 children. When the results were compared to data on viewing, interesting contradictions were observed:
Parents estimated that most children (56%) spend one to three hours a day in front of the television. Data on viewing showed that children spend a full three hours in front of the television. Half of that time, the children are in front of the television without adult supervision.
“Children spend 50% of the time in front of the television without adult supervision.”
The Agency for Electronic Media and UNICEF launched a national campaign under the slogan “We Choose What We Watch” to raise the level of awareness about media literacy. The aim was to draw attention to the importance of media literacy amongst parents, guardians and children and the importance of choosing media content appropriate for children. Three television clips were broadcast on all TV channels with national coverage.
The campaign invites parents to follow TV parental guidance and this was also supported by famous faces from the TV screen: Zoran Šprajc, Marija Miholjek, Petar Pereža, Daniela Trbović, Zoran Vakula and Tomislav Jelinčić.
The drawing-up of recommendations on how to select appropriate content for children, for parents and television editors, was also an important part of the campaign. It involved experts who work with children, media experts, and experts in the field of developmental psychology.
“Children in Croatia watch television without adult supervision for up to 10 hours per week, while children and young people spend an average of 5 hours per day on the Internet.”
People are aware of the problem of how media influence children, as is evident from the fact that 81% of citizens believe that children do not receive enough instruction about media literacy.
In 2016, the Agency for Electronic Media and UNICEF, in cooperation with other partners, presented the Internet portal medijskapismenost.hr intended to provide information and to educate parents, guardians, caregivers and teachers about media literacy.
Smartphones, social networks and other platforms have placed new challenges before parents, but also children and young people. In research conducted in 2019, citizens indicated that the most important aspects of media literacy were the protection of privacy and personal data on the Internet, recognition of fake news and misinformation, and acknowledging and respecting other people, their opinions and positions. Considering that children and young people spend more and more time on platforms such as YouTube, parents are concerned by readily available violent and inappropriate content, failure to mark age-inappropriate content, and the use of YouTube for spreading hate speech. It is particularly worrying that almost one in four children and young people have personally experienced violence and hate speech on social networks.
In 2018, the Agency for Electronic Media and UNICEF launched a project entitled Days of Media Literacy that gathers more and more children and young people, as well as caregivers, teachers and professors every year. At the Days of Media Literacy, we presented the first picture book on media for the youngest children, as well as brochures for parents. Every year, we provide educators in kindergartens and primary and secondary schools with interesting materials for work with children, young people, and parents. At the Days of Media Literacy throughout Croatia, numerous lectures are organised, while through the activity “Children Learn about Media” children and young people visit media houses to learn how news is created and to try to write articles and create radio and television items themselves.