The release of the DCMS Online Media Literacy Strategy has been a welcome resource that
concretes the need for media literacy to take a greater profile in education. The pandemic has
increased, and indeed accelerated the need for media literacy to be addressed as a broader area of
learning. Whilst the document addresses media literacy for all ages and vulnerabilities, what does
this mean for primary schools?
What is Media Literacy?
Whilst there is no formal definition, with screen use at an all time high and dependency on tech use
critical to all aspects of life, media literacy has got to be the innovative newcomer to our National
Curriculum, if we are to prepare children and young people for a truly blended world.
The Draft Online Safety Bill sets out the following definition of media literacy:
● an understanding of the nature and characteristics of material published by means of
the electronic media
● an awareness of the impact that such material may have (for example, the impact on
the behaviour of those who receive it)
● an awareness and understanding of the processes by which such material is selected
or made available for publication
Sonia Livingstone says that we are ‘digital by default’ and it seems obvious that we need to raise the
stakes of media literacy in schools so that we can provide pupils with the skills and knowledge they
need, as well as the critical thinking ability to be safe and savvy online.
The aim to ‘undertake media literacy activity in a more coordinated, wide-reaching, and high quality
way over the next three years’ is a welcome one but with statistics of negative online related issues
at an all time high, if schools are to invest in wellbeing, media literacy and all its benefits needs to be
airlifted into position right now to reduce the impact of the last 18 months.
With young people accessing screens and the internet at an ever decreasing age, it seems sensible to
put in place a preventative, behavioural approach to media literacy and cyber skills acquisition. This
must be in addition to the range of online safety support, reporting tools and platform design, if we
are to be sure to avoid the pitfalls for even our most vulnerable sectors.
What is the Online Media Literacy Strategy aiming to address?
The strategy outlines 5 key objectives or areas of learning:
● Data and Privacy
● Online Environment
● Information Consumption
● Online Consequences
● Online Engagement
From our research, we found that whilst children have minimal difficulty with the functionality of
technology they encounter, the challenge is more focused around the nuance of the language, the
impact of the behaviour , either their own or others, and the subsequent emotional fallout of hitting
some bumps in the process. And what’s most shocking is the normalisation of negative online
incidences. This correlates with some stats from the strategy document:
● Only 2% of children have the critical literacy skills needed to discern truthful content from
● Half of children aged 12-15 have seen hateful content online in the past year, however, the
majority (58%) chose to ignore it and took no action
● 43% of children speak to people they don’t know in real-life online, with half of children aged
8-12 having friends or followers online that they don’t know
What’s the solution?
We designed and created Natterhub as an immersive, gated social media platform for primary
schools to teach critical thinking skills, learn the knowledge of being online, and understand the
impact of online behaviour. It teaches the very essence of digital citizenship in an engaging and fun
environment that clearly has been designed with children in mind. Unlike the internet.
“We know that there is a correlation between vulnerable children offline and vulnerable
children online. Our intention was to bring media literacy clearly into the primary timetable,
it made sense for us to use an approach which embeds online safety, digital safeguarding
and raises the profile of online kindness across our curriculum. Our children live out a
considerable amount of their childhood online so we have a duty of care to teach them what
they need to know in order to thrive in a digital landscape.”
Debbie Kelly, Headteacher at Beaumont Academy in Huddersfield