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Media Literacy Week 2021

Jessica Wilson, National Director of Good Things Foundation Australia, discusses new research into media literacy and its connection to digital inclusion.

By Good Things Foundation Australia · 28/10/2021

Woman using a mobile phone as an elderly woman watches.

Have you ever wondered if that unbelievable post your friends are commenting on is too good to be true? Or, how to spot a deep fake?

Digital media literacy helps us to ask these critical questions. But, not everyone has all the skills they need to be confident in the online world.

Leading an organisation dedicated to helping people to get online for the first time, or take their next steps to improve their confidence using their smartphone, tablet or computer, I am highly aware of the need to not only develop people’s basic tech skills but also their ability to critically analyse information seen online.

Recent research by Western Sydney University, QUT & University of Canberra has shown that 30% of Australian adults have a low level of media literacy. Australians who live in regional areas, are less educated, living with a disability, identify as First Nations, or are older are at higher risk of having this low media literacy. It is no surprise to us that this coincides with the groups of people at higher risk of being digitally excluded.

The research also shows that half of Australian adults do not know how to change social media privacy settings. 61% of us lack confidence in identifying misinformation online. That’s nearly 2 in 3 Australians who have gaps in their digital media literacy. Clearly, it’s not just our beginners in the online world who need support to improve their confidence and skills.

It’s important that programs that build digital skills also include support on how to critically analyse information online.

So, in our recent digital health literacy program and Get Online Week resources, we made sure to include easy to follow tips on how to find trustworthy information. For example, we advise people that health information found online should never replace getting personalised advice from a doctor, medical or mental health professional and that using  Australian government-managed websites is the best approach to access reliable and up-to-date information, identified simply using their web address or URL (ends with .gov.au).

There are also some useful programs on media literacy that have already been rolled out to children, such as the Media Literacy Lab by the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. ABC Education has created some handy tips and resources, including on spotting fake or false news.

But, people of all ages, especially those at higher risk of having low digital media literacy, need tailored support to be confident in the online world. Unfortunately, this support is not yet in place, with 44% of people with low levels of education reporting not having access to any media literacy support.

The ACCC’s 2019 Digital Platforms Inquiry report recommended that a community-based education program is established to develop resources and train community organisations to upskill all Australians in identifying and scrutinising online news, building on the community-model of our successful Be Connected program.

This Media Literacy Week, I echo this recommendation. Digital media literacy is an essential skill we all must have to reduce online harms, support our kids to stay safe online, and help everyone to equally and confidently participate in today’s online world.