Sonja Merljak Zdovc
TikTok or a trusted media outlet? Where do you want children to get their information from? In times of polarisation, political divisions and public mistrust it is important that they, too, have access to reliable sources of information in the language they understand. The disinformation pandemic is a serious threat for them as well. We want to fight it with online newspaper Časoris, with media literacy workshops, and with a platform for diverse voices from different children communities.
The project will address children from all over Slovenia.
Children growing up today live in the world of TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and You Tube. They are not always able to access relevant information in the language they understand. Therefore, they tend to believe disinformation circulating on closed messaging platforms and social media. Our research has shown that children have trouble judging the credibility of information online. They are often unable to distinguish between true and fake news, discern fact from opinion, recognise sponsored content or political bias in a news story and they have a hard time identifying where the information comes from. Thus, children, too, need news they can trust and workshops that help them become more media literate.
With our activities, i.e. online newspaper Časoris, media literacy workshops and by giving voice to children, we aim to empower children to become better informed and more active citizens. Additionally, we also aim to contribute to a more diverse and inclusive society by providing a platform for stories of children from different communities. The project NewsKidsTrust also tries to increase the acceptance and respect of different nationalities and ethnic groups, refugees and migrants, children with disabilities or those with special needs and thus to promote a more diverse, tolerant, and vibrant civil society.
The main beneficiary of the project are children who are rarely present in the media. Additionally, most media outlets do not provide information in the language that children can understand easily. Thus children get their information from unreliable sources. Our research has shown that approximately 60 percent of children aged 12 - 14 fell for some sort of disinformation. Additionally, half of them said they did not really care when they learned that the information was not true. Such indifference can contribute to a more passive citizenship. The project aims to address this ongoing concern. With the growing popularity of the newspaper Časoris, more and more children might become interested in news they can trust and in participating in civic engagement.
1. We will daily provide news they can trust to children. At the moment we have about 30,000 unique visitors per month;
2. In schools we will organise 26 interactive media literacy workshops for children, aged 12. The workshops will be 2 hours long. We estimate 650 children will participate.
3. Partner schools will be able to participate in a half-a-day MIL seminar for teachers (we estimate that around 25 teachers will attend),
4. Children will be able to tell their stories and raise their concerns about things that matter to them.
5. We will support those who want to continue on journalism track with follow up activities.
6. We will also reach out to parents directly or indirectly through social media. A special section of Časoris is dedicated to parents and teachers.
If our project is selected, we will be able to continue our work which is currently under serious threat for various reasons. Because we always wanted to be available to all children, also to those who would not be able to afford a newspaper subscription, we decided to offer our content for free. This, however, means that we need to find additional funding in form of grants and complementary business activities.
The project will thus also in the future continue to:
- offer children access to a trusted source of information,
- help develop critical thinking skills of participating children,
- encourage their civic engagement.
The crises eroding democracies around the world, i. e. readership decline, spreading of fake news and other forms of disinformation, are well documented. So, too, are the attacks on robust, independent journalism, without which such democracies can't function. Neither democracy nor serious media can succeed without active and informed engagement from citizens. Yet that, too, has been in escalating decline, exacerbated by the distractions and disinformation that are so prevalent — hard to ignore and hard to decipher — in an era of intense political polarisation and an untamed, opaque internet. While we all struggle to find reliable roads to a stable future, we often lack the time or vision to focus on what may be our most important partner in this struggle: children and young people.
We believe that journalism is an important and beautiful profession. However, in the last decades journalism became a failing profession. The media, so crucial to democracy, began to lose their readers. Children live in the world of TikTok. They do not see their parents watch the news. With a generation of readers lost, we began to think what we could do to help. We created an online newspaper for children. Online, because children are on the web. Newspaper, because we wanted them to read serious news, not just the fun staff. It is aimed at young children, those who won’t read the news on their own. But if the adults they respect tell them to read the news, they will listen. We hope that by the time they are teenagers they even develop a habit of reading news they can trust.
Funding requested from Civic Europe
- 40,000 personnel costs (editor, writers, workshop leaders);
- 2,000 promotion and public relations;
- 5,000 office expenses
- 1,000 travel expenses
We would be very happy to hear how we could either improve our project or how we could improve any supporting activities (marketing, promotion, funding opportunities, project presentation).