Consultations on Socio-Emotional Skills and Media Literacy for Children and Youth

Written by on 2023-02-23

On Tuesday, February 21, 2023, from 12:30 to 14:00, the fourth consultation within the structured dialogue on the project “Media Education is Important.MOV” took place on the Zoom platform, discussing socio-emotional skills and media literacy for youth. Branimira Penić from the Croatian Debate Society moderated the consultations, along with the author of the guidelines on socio-emotional skills and media literacy for youth, Jelena Adamlje from the Pragma Association, and participants – representatives of organizations and institutions working with children and youth within both formal and informal education. They discussed how media literacy can promote the development of socio-emotional skills and how socio-emotional skills can promote the development of media literacy for children and youth, members of the so-called Generation Z.

After defining the concepts of media and emotional literacy, participants were asked whether they believed socio-emotional and media literacy are connected and why. Most participants in the structured dialogue expressed the view that these two types of literacy are connected or at least partially connected, explaining their answers with statements that media content expects our reaction, counting on our emotions, and that we cannot participate in the media if we cannot assess how prone they are to manipulation, as well as that the media, especially in contemporary society, are an important place of socialization. When asked about the extent to which programs or activities aimed at strengthening socio-emotional competencies are generally implemented, participants responded that such programs are only partially implemented, citing reasons such as a lack of professional collaborators in schools, inconsistency associated with the implementation of programs aimed at strengthening socio-emotional competencies, and their dependence on the enthusiasm of individuals – educators, teachers, specialists – who are often overwhelmed with other tasks in their workplace.

It is indicative that none of the respondents were able to list existing program-strategic documents in the field of socio-emotional literacy, such as the National Plan for Children’s Rights in the Republic of Croatia, the National Youth Program, and the Education, Science, and Technology Strategy. This indicates the need to establish clearer and more transparent criteria and ways of cooperation with experts from educational institutions, as well as the need to promote the possibility of their involvement in the consultation process when drafting such documents, which would partially ensure the continuity of the adoption and implementation of what strategic documents advocate. Implementation, according to the participants, would also be ensured by better defining outcomes for end-users, evaluating documents with regard to these outcomes, as well as their implementation in the curricula of individual subjects and their operationalization.

The consultations also discussed the risks and difficulties children and youth face in the media. Problems such as excessive exposure of children and youth to screens, constant evaluation they are subjected to on social networks, uncritical sharing of information, endangerment of personal safety, e.g., sexual harassment, (peer) violence – where a major problem is the anonymity of the abusers, were highlighted. Extortion and hate speech, as well as the distrust of the elderly who could help them deal with these problems, were also mentioned by young people.

Consultation participants also had the opportunity to discuss the quality of curriculum content in the socio-emotional component of media literacy. In addition to financial reasons, the key reason for not implementing programs of socio-emotional learning and media literacy in Croatia is that educational staff, even when there is an interest in their implementation, often do not feel competent enough. This problem could be overcome by verifying programs of socio-emotional and media literacy, with the help of planning the implementation of curricula for interdisciplinary topics in cooperation with experts and associations, and ensuring human resources and funds for their quality implementation within educational institutions. Programs aimed at strengthening socio-emotional competencies in the context of media literacy should, according to the participants in the structured dialogue, be primarily aimed at children and youth, and then at educational staff, and – which is also important – parents, who are often not sufficiently involved in the socio-emotional and media literacy of their children. At the end of the consultations, participants had the opportunity to rank the recommendations highlighted in the guidelines for improving socio-emotional skills and media literacy for children and youth in terms of importance, and the most important recommendation emphasized the need to articulate the connection between media literacy and socio-emotional learning and integrate socio-emotional learning into media education.