5 tips for media literacy

Today’s digital society offers a multitude of possibilities. You can quickly and easily stay in touch with friends on the other side of the world and take care of your shopping, work or study activities without ever leaving the house. To truly participate in the digital society, however, you need to know how to properly deal with media. In short: you need to develop media literacy.

5 tips over mediawijsheid Being media literate makes it possible to do things like pursue self-improvement by learning a language via an app, or do your paperwork online so you have more time left for other activities. It can also make it easier to combine your career with your family life by working from home part of the time. Media literacy is a skill that you can learn and which can be measured. It involves using devices and software, finding and processing information and having insight into your own media use, to give a few examples.


During the COVID-19 pandemic the past year, the importance of media literacy became greater than ever as it accelerated our transition to the digital society. The spread of fake news, particularly about the COVID-19 virus, increased and there was growing attention for the need to strike a healthy balance between the online and offline worlds. In order to draw extra attention to this topic, the Media Literacy Network organises an annual Media Literacy Week. This year’s edition will be held from 6 through 13 November and will centre on the theme of ‘Being social together online’.

5 tips

Lecturer-researcher Jos van Helvoort from the Sustainable Talent Development research group is conducting research into one aspect of media literacy, i.e. young people’s ability to recognise fake news. The research shows that attention to media literacy in education can help young people develop media literacy. So what tips does Jos have for lecturers who want to strengthen their students’ media literacy?

Have students conduct their own experiments with retouching or manipulating a digital photo. Besides Photoshop, this can also be done using free tools that are available online such as PIXLR or pictures. This teaches them how easy it is to alter a photo. And therefore how easily facts in the news can be manipulated and shared as well.
Ask the students to look through a current newspaper or news site in search of charts that have purposefully been ‘cut off’ in order to make the described effect seem greater than it actually is.
Ask students to turn WhatsApp notifications off on their smartphones, and then back on. This helps them learn to stay in control of their social media use.
Have students do an online search for a scientific article that demonstrates a link between the MMR (mumps/measles/rubella) vaccine and autism disorder.
Tip: the original source is an article in The Lancet that has been cited 3,868 times to date (Google Scholar). In this case, what conclusion can be drawn from the high number of citations?
Have students explore the question of why The Hague University of Applied Sciences has not only the Student Portal but a presence on platforms such as Instagram. What are the differences between these two channels in terms of content, reliability and relevance for their study programme?

Want to know more?

Listen to the podcast by Jos van Helvoort, ‘Can you spot the difference between real news and fake news?’
Read the article Create your own fake news
Take the COVID-19 Fake News Challenge
To learn more about Jos van Helvoort’s research, visit our website.