MPs form media literacy group to safeguard children from fake news

The All-Party Parliamentary Group on Media Literacy has been created to empower and inform online safety training in UK schools

MPs across the UK have formed a group to reform online safety training in schools and safeguard children from fake news.

Assembled by media literacy charity The Student View, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Media Literacy, officially formed yesterday (24 November), will commission an independent inquiry into the teaching of media literacy skills in schools across the nation, with the gathering of evidence commencing in January 2021.

According to newly-published research by Teacher Tapp, only half of teachers have heard of the government’s guidance to keep children safe from fake news.

In a survey of more than 6,500 UK teaching staff, Teacher Tapp uncovered that:

  • 47% of teachers have never heard of the government guidance on online safety
  • 14% of schools have implemented recommendations from the government’s guidance across the curriculum
  • 5% of headteachers regularly assess the effectiveness of this guidance

In an era defined as the ‘age of misinformation’, the proliferation of fake news has been deemed one of the most pressing issues of our time, with figures from June this year showing that two-thirds of Europeans encounter fake news at least once a week, and 83% of European citizens agreeing that fake news is a threat to democracy.

On top of this, recent research conducted by online safety group Internet Matters revealed that three-quarters (75%) of UK parents are concerned for their children’s exposure to fake news, but despite this, few are initiating conversations regarding how to spot the issue – a worrying trend considering the potential of false information to influence our thoughts, political opinions, and views of the world at large.

In light of this, the group brings together MPs and Peers from Labour, Conservative and the Scottish National Party, who will work together to take evidence from witnesses and work alongside industry leaders, regulators and businesses to produce a shared skills framework and secure the UK’s position as a global leader in media literacy education.

“I strongly believe that we need to promote digital and media literacy as a fourth pillar of education…” – Damian Collins MP

The group will be tasked with supporting, challenging and monitoring the impact of the government’s media literacy strategy to ensure school teachers and children are equipped with the critical thinking skills needed to navigate the age of misinformation.

Among the group’s most impactful plans is the establishment of a universal definition for the term ‘media literacy’, as well as ensuring that high-quality media literacy training is open to both children and their teachers via the proposed Online Harms Bill.

Members include:

  • Chair – Damian Collins MP, Conservative Party
  • Co-chair – The Lord Hastings of Scarisbrick CBE, Crossbench Life Peer
  • Vice-chair – The Right Honourable Damian Hinds MP, Conservative Party
  • Vice-chair – John Nicolson MP, Scottish National Party
  • Vice-chair – Siobhan McDonagh MP, Labour Party
  • Vice-chair – The Right Honourable Lord Knight of Weymouth, Labour Party

The group is led by Damian Collins MP, former chair of the Digital, Culture, media and Sport (DCMS) Committee between October 2016 and January 2020.

“I strongly believe that we need to promote digital and media literacy as a fourth pillar of education, alongside reading, writing, and maths, so that children and young adults can identify sites they can trust or are safe, appraise the content of what they read, and make informed choices about news they share with others,” said Mr Collins.

“With the government moving forward on Online Harms legislation, I think we have a golden opportunity to set out standards for a nationwide media literacy strategy.”

The Student View, a non-profit dedicated to training UK teens in how to spot misinformation and become local news reporters, will serve as the group’s secretariat.

Solomon Elliott, chief executive of the charity, commented: “Disinformation is a problem that affects us all; cross-party action is vital to make the UK the safest place to be online.

“We have seen in our workshops how carving out some time in the school calendar for digital literacy gives the students the critical thinking tools they need to distinguish fact from fiction and a fighting chance to navigate this challenging reality.”

In other news: University of Birmingham lands £4m for high-performance computing lab


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