When children get access to the news: the importance of media literacy

This blog post is part of the ‘Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance and Integration Series’ headed by Jean Monnet Chair of European Media Governance & Integration Prof. Katharine Sarikakis, and curated by Wagner Piassaroli Mantovaneli und Markos Mpadanes.


by Yeliz Akkaya



Photo by Gaelle Marcel / Unsplash


Nowadays children have more possibilities to have access to media. That means, even if they are not allowed to watch or read news at home, they still have the possibility to do it outside their home. Instead of keeping children away from geting in touch with news, it may make more sense to encourage them to learn how to deal with it. This aspect of news consumption by children and the reason why media literarcy is so important, is the subject of this discussion.

The Kim study from 2013 shows that nothing stands in the way of access to the media. The study found out that there is a television in every family and that 50% of all 6 to 13-year-old kids have their own smartphone. With access to social media and television, they are already equipped to face a flow of information, even if they have no intention to do it.


What is the role of media literacy in this?

After all, children should be able to classify and evaluate the information they are confronted with and form their own opinion of the whole. This is only possible with media literacy. Media literacy means the ability to deal competently with the media. Through this competence kids should be able to evaluate the acquired information critically, self-determinedly, produce it also on their own and be able to talk about it with other people. In short, for children this means to understand what they read. And on the basis of this to become an acting subject in society.

Children getting interested in reading new information is not only an unstoppable process but also good for their development. Children who come into contact with newspapers at an early age are more likely to subscribe to a newspaper when they grow up. This is important in relation to their reading compentence. Children who can’t read well, lose their enjoyment and won’t become enthusiastic newspaper readers in the future.


How does media literacy help children? 

Children who develop media literacy learn to think critically, they become smart news consumers, they understand whether information is credible or not, and they can also judge if some information are used to influence them. They learn to recognize the producer’s opinion and also make their own.

It also helps to create media responsibility, and besides creating own opinion, it also helps them to sort out how to say it and understand what kind of effect it could have. When children learn what influence certain things have on them, they can make better decisions. But after all, it is not about showing the child what is “right”. It is rather an exchange process where both children and parents can learn a lot from each other.


What are the requirements for acquiring media literacy?

Developing media literacy goes in hand with having an awareness of mediality. Children who acquire media literacy should also have a sense of mediality. They should be able to distinguish between reality and mediality as well as between mediality and fiction.

Being able to change the own position is the key to that. The child should be able to consciously adapt a different point of view. It should for example understand that somewhere else children have no food, while children here have enough to eat. But they should also be able to distinguish whether the story they read is a true story or a fiction. These skills can be acquired at primary school age. But understanding the fact that news can also include journalist’s own opinions, is still complicated for children at the age of 12.


So how should news be designed the best for children?

Some studies on television news for children (Gleich & Schmitt, 2009) show that children are able to reproduce information they receive from television news even better, if these take their cognitive level of development into account. So among the most important rules for news, the most important key rule is to think and form content from children’s perspective and also avoid valuations so that they can think on their own.

For example: The German news broadcast for children “logo!”, which produces news for 8 to 13 year olds, claims, they design content in a way that no topic is left out, but all content is adapted to children, so that it suits their level of understanding. They also claim that nowadays, children no longer have to get used to the concept of “news”, as media reception has become much faster. They are less and less afraid of overtaxing children.

There are some options for news broadcast and papers for children, so parents and teachers can choose individually the one which suits them best. The main objective is to encourage children to inform themselves and to make sure that they understand what they really were informed about.



Common sense media: News and Media Literacy


Zugegriffen am 10.05.19


Mayr Peter & Riss Karin [2014]: Der Standard – Wie man Kindern die Welt erklärt


Zugegriffen am 10.05.19


Sandhagen Peter [2015]: The Inquisitive Mind – Nachrichten für Kinder: Was die Entwicklungspsychologie zur Praxis beitragen kann


Zugegriffen am 10.05.19


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