By Emma Horn

KEEPING up-to-date with the news is very important to kids but most find it hard to understand.

Half the people aged between 10 and 18 who took part in a recent study thought news helped them to be part of their communities.

The study was done by Common Sense Media, a US group that helps kids better understand where the news comes from and whether it can be trusted.

Finding a way through the information maze is not easy. Illustration: Christopher Downes

Finding a way through the information maze is not easy. Illustration: Christopher Downes

Social news

Australia’s Office of the eSafety Commissioner surveyed 2,448 Australians aged between 12 and 17 last year and found many of them get news updates from social media.

But the online world is saturated with false information, ‘fake news’ and advertising made to look like fact. Fewer than half the kids in the American study said they could tell the difference between real and fake news.

Another 2016 US study, from Stanford University, showed 80 per cent of young people in upper-primary and lower-secondary school could not spot the difference between sponsored content and real news.

But very little research had been done into media literacy in Australia.

So Crinkling News will host Australia’s first media literacy conference for kids, putting young people in the driver’s seat.

What is media literacy?

It’s the ability to think about the things we see or hear in the media – whether it’s online, in newspapers or on the TV – and be able to know what messages are being sent and why.  

Somebody who is media literate can easily tell the difference between paid advertising and news, and between opinion and fact. They can also create their own media.

Source: Common Sense Media

The MediaMe conference will be at Bangarra Dance Theatre in Sydney on November 19 and 20.

Facebook, the Museum of Australian Democracy, Western Sydney University, Queensland University of Technology (QUT) and many others are teaming up with Crinkling News to find out just how well young people understand the media.

What’s important? What’s true?

“Every day we’re bombarded with information from so many places – phones, tablets, TV, radio, school, friends, teachers and family,” says Ms Howden.

“We need to work out how to tell what information is important and what’s true.”

Reading and understanding

Michael Dezuanni is a media expert from the Queensland University of Technology and says media literacy is much like reading a book.

“[It’s] the ability to read something and understand what it’s saying … or [see] whether or not something might be reliable and believable or whether it might be fake news,” Associate Professor Dezuanni says.

Tools for media literacy

At the conference, kids aged between 10 and 15 will work with senior journalists, social media experts and academics to come up with the tools needed to spot misinformation, biased reporting, or “news” that’s been paid for by an advertiser.

“We’re teaching kids how to stay safe online, [but] I think in recent years we’ve focused a lot more on digital media and kids’ use of social media,” says Associate Professor Dezuanni.

“We’re starting to look at whether kids consume news regularly and if they are accessing it, how are they actually using it.”

The future is literate

At the end of the MediaMe conference, the young people involved will put together a document for government saying what they think needs to be done to help kids develop media skills.

Look out for more announcements about the MediaMe conference in the coming weeks.

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