Media Smart is a media literacy programme for 7-16-year-olds. They produce free educational materials for schools, youth organisations and guardians. The resources are created by specialists using real examples of advertising campaigns to teach core media literacy skills.
The event which took place in May was to raise awareness on a variety of issues facing young people today.
Guests were welcomed by MP Andrew Bowie who expressed the significance of integrating media literacy into classrooms.
‘Media literacy is a vital part of child education and much greater support and guidance is needed in this area’.
The short film, Boys Biggest Conversation, featured Dr Ranj Singh visiting two boys’ schools. One in London and the other in Kilmarnock. There he asked the young men a variety of questions about body image, mental health and the role social media plays in both.
Dr Ranj Singh explained that both boys and girls are now feeling pressure to look a certain way and this can have very serious consequences such as anxiety, depression and even eating disorders.
Child psychologist, Emma Kenny, says celeb culture is partly to blame.
‘Young men are growing up thinking I have to look this way, I have to do these things to be successful’.
The film co-produced by Media Smart and partner First News, also showed how photoshop is used to create an ‘ideal’ body type to the point where the subject is ‘virtually unrecognisable’.
The Head of Education at First News, Nicolette Smallshaw, spoke about how important organisations like Media Smart and Shout Out UK are.
‘Teachers and schools are under immense pressure, so providing them with resources and tools to navigate digital and media literacy like Media Smart resources and films are a huge help to them’.
Shout out UK offers various resources to teach children vital skills for navigating the web. Using newspapers and social media they demonstrate how media can be biased and look at persuasive language, headlines, choice of images, choice of stories, choice of people to quote, etc.
Shout Out UK also recently ran a series of workshops in association with the US Embassy (in Birmingham, Newcastle and Belfast) called ‘Media Minded’.
These workshops highlighted the importance of checking that your news sources are reliable and how to do that.
After the film screening, a panel was invited to answer questions on the subject from the Chair of Media Smart, Mark Lund.
Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner of England was among those being questioned. She thought education was the key to approaching this issue.
‘Schools do have a responsibility; the issue needs to be addressed there and at home.
‘There needs to be a formal slot in the curriculum. Perhaps in PSHE, there is an opportunity there. They must be approached by the school as one unit’.
Ali Jeremy is Director of Communications at the NSPCC, she spoke about the children calling up ChildLine, a freephone helpline designed to aid children through any issues they may be facing.
‘Girls are four times more likely to call in than boys and are eight times as likely to call about body image.
‘There is a stigma to man up and boys find it difficult to speak about this issue’.
She also spoke about the dangerous repercussions this can have.
‘Body issues can lead to low self-esteem which can cause depression and ultimately isolation.
‘We need to change the perception that men need to be strong’.
Craig Donaghy was representing child safety app, Popjam. The company also provides tips and advice to parents, guardians and teachers about how to keep their children safe online and safeguarding techniques.
He said discussing the topic can be daunting for adults when they feel their children are more knowledgeable than themselves.
‘Pupils and children can know more about technology. In order to give advice and feel authoritative they need to keep talking about it.
‘Constant dialogues and staying involved at home and in schools about tech is essential.
‘It is important to provide safe ways to navigate content’.
Chair Mark Lund closed the event by pointing out the importance of engaging young people on this topic and encouraged those in attendance to take the work forward beyond the occasion.
‘Our resources are reaching half a million children. We want to create more resources and reach more children’.