Digital media literacy case study

Kids on social media – cats and climate change.

A European institution with the mandate of promoting free press globally.
Fake news, misinformation and echo chambers have dominated conversations around digital media in recent years. It is important to give young people tools to navigate the sometimes polarised and potentially misleading content they encounter online.

To develop these tools, it was necessary to understand how young people engage with the information they encounter on social media. They decided to commission an exploratory study of how 13-14-year-olds critically engage with online content. The study was conducted in South Africa, Mexico and the Netherlands. We were responsible for the South African leg.

APPROACH:  A workshop approach to conduct exploratory research. 

  • We invited 3 streams of children (mixed gender) aged 13/14.
  • Each stream was held on a separate Saturday at a central venue.
  • Each workshop staffed by 6 researchers, 4 support staff and 2 supervising psychologists.
  • All instruments were fully piloted before the workshops.
  • Instrument design was based on a 2-day workshop with researchers from South Africa, Mexico, Netherlands and Sweden.


  • The study revealed fascinating insights as to what information captured young people’s attention and the different engagement styles and the depth of critical thinking young people employed when presented with information on social media.
  • The outputs used to inform 2 ‘hackathons’ aimed to develop media literacy tools for young people. 
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