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Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport publishes Online Media Literacy Strategy

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has published the Online Media Literacy Strategy. The strategy, which seeks to improve media literacy amongst internet users across the UK, compliments the upcoming Online Safety Bill

What is the Online Media Literacy Strategy? 

Online safety is currently a big topic for the Government. Recently, the draft Online Safety Bill was published which aims to place additional duties on online services to protect their users from both illegal and legal harms.  

Keeping the UK safe and secure online is also one of the top ten tech priorities for DCMS. The Online Media Literacy Strategy follows on from this work and intends to support existing organisations in the online media literacy strategy space to undertake their work in a coordinated way over the next three years.  

The strategy outlines the top 5 principles of media literacy which should be taught to users so that they can navigate online services safely. In short, users should understand:  

The risks of sharing personal data online and how that data can be used by others, and be able to take action to protect their privacy online 

How the online environment operates and use this to inform decisions online 

How online content is generated, and be able to critically analyse the content they consume 

Actions online has consequences offline, and use this understand in their online interactions

How to participate in online engagement and contribute to making the online environment positive, whilst understanding the risks of engaging with others. 

What does this mean for games?

There are few references to video games specifically, however the strategy does note the power of games in delivering media literacy, citing a case study of education through gaming with Go Viral!, a game developed by the University of Cambridge with media agency DROG and the Cabinet Office.

In addition to this, this strategy will be particularly worth noting for games with online communities and user-generated content. The strategy expects online platforms to invest more in promoting media literacy to their users, including through their design choices – whether this is providing guidance and support to users experiencing hateful behaviour, or ensuring parents have access to parental controls.

This ‘literacy by design’ which the strategy encourages, means platform design which includes features that help users make more informed and safer choices online. It cites ‘fact-check’ notifications as a positive example of ‘literacy by design’ but makes it clear that it wishes literacy by design to go beyond just addressing mis- and disinformation.

What comes next? 

DCMS have also published an Online Media Literacy Action Plan for the current financial year, with additional plans published every financial year until 2024/2025. 

This year’s actions include setting up the following: 

  • A Media Literacy Taskforce 
    Bringing together stakeholders across media literacy sector to help set actions for removing barriers in achieving the Strategy. 
  • A Media Literacy Online Portal 
    Bringing together current media literacy resources in one place for users to access. 
  • Train the Trainer Programme 
    A media literacy training programme for teachers & carers of disabled children.
  • Social Media Influencers 
    Unlocking the potential of social media influencers in delivering media literacy to their audiences.
  • UK Media Literacy Forum 
    Media literacy is a devolved matter, meaning that the Strategy only applies to England. However, they aim to create a UK-wide form with devolved administrations to ensure coordination.
  • Media Literacy Comms Campaign 
    Raising awareness of media literacy amongst users.  
  • Upskilling Librarians & Youth Workers 
    Training librarians and Youth Workers to deliver media literacy learning.  

Each plan will receive interim quarterly updates to ensure it is on track and performing effectively. 

Anything else to note? 

Part of the work in developing the strategy included scanning the current landscape of the media literacy sector, which found 170 online safety initiatives in the UK. They found that the most common delivery methods for these initiatives included online guides, videos or games.  

The strategy also acknowledged the unique experiences users have online, particularly those whose experiences are impacted by a protected characteristic.  

Digital literacy and Games 

Ukie understands the importance of digital literacy amongst players in helping them navigate online spaces confidently and independently.  

Ask About Games is an industry-funded resources that provides guidance to parents and players on video games, age ratings, and how to play games safely and responsibly.  

This is in addition to public information campaigns including Get, Set, Go and Get Smart about PLAY which give advice on how to set up parental controls tools.  

Digital Schoolhouse also provides a number of resources to promote digital literacy amongst students, promoting positive behaviours online through lesson plans, workshops and home schooling activities.