Children are not only curious - more importantly, they actively consume and use media. How to ensure their safety? The MIL4KIDZ curriculum is one way. Marion Apio, a trainer, explains what the curriculum is all about.
DW Akademie: Can you tell me what the MIL4KIDZ curriculum is all about?
Marion Apio: The MIL4KIDZ curriculum is a guide DW Akademie together with us at Media Challenge Initiative (MCI) developed to teach media and information literacy (MIL) skills to children in Uganda. It consists of four key parts: ‘media & me’, ‘media & my curiosity’, ‘media & my fun’ and ‘media & my relationship’. During the first part, the kids get to create their own media profiles and we teach them to understand that they are not only media consumers, but also producers. During the second part, we teach the children to distinguish between facts, opinions and news and they also start creating their own content.
What about digital safety?
We know that an online presence requires a general understanding of digital safety and security. That’s why the third part of our curriculum focuses heavily on these aspects. While many children already use or are exposed to various media digital media, many don’t really understand the safety concerns yet. We teach why privacy and passwords are important. They need to know that it's important to regulate who sees their posts and how to safely communicate and socialize online.
Why is it so important to teach children MIL skills and not start with adults?
Well, we have to think that the children we teach today are the future generation of media users. So, the earlier we start equipping them with the necessary skills to navigate the digital world, the better. We believe that every child, regardless of whether they own their own digital platforms, or tools, is still a content contributor and consumer of media. The longer we wait with teaching, the more dangers like cyberbullying, sexual harassment, discrimination and hate speech, as well privacy dangers, they face.
This sounds like a lot of theory – how do you manage to teach such complicated and abstract things to young children?
We use playful activities to strengthen the aspects of the curriculum. One of them is that we create a TV or radio show with the children. Other possibilities are games, competitions, and much more. The fun while learning is of paramount importance for us. The curriculum is just a guide, it doesn’t really restrict us as trainers.
Why did you decide to become an MIL trainer for children?
I will be honest: I love children very much! I used to babysit my cousins, nephews and nieces. So, technically speaking, I am a natural born teacher for children. But the main reason why I became a trainer is that I’ve been a part of the Media Challenge Fellowship, where I was mentored on everything to do with media. Communication and journalism were always my passion but being a journalist and working with children is not very common. So, the MIL4KIDZ curriculum offered a unique opportunity to combine both – children and journalism – and pass my skills on to the next generation of media users.
While teaching children sounds like fun, I can imagine that it can get really stressful sometimes. What were the biggest challenges you faced?
Some people will tell you it's easier to teach adults than children. I don’t agree. But, of course, there are challenges. Quite frankly: it’s a lot! The biggest challenge for me was to be patient and keep the children interested in the things you want to teach them. If you bore them, they will be brutally honest with you and they will act accordingly. For a child, even the slightest problem can turn into a huge catastrophe – and you have to be prepared for that. But, I think, being patient and building a connection with children by teaching them brings out the best in me.
The MIL4KIDZ curriculum was quite successful. Will there be more in the future?
Yes, the MIL4KIDZ curriculum was really successful in Uganda. For example, 140 children, 17 parents, 23 teachers and 10 NGO workers attended our MIL trainings and strengthened their MIL skills. DW Akademie trained 15 people from MCI to become MIL trainers. So we started to think about what the next logical step would be – and teens came to mind. We developed the MIL4TEENZ curriculum that needs to be tested with the teens themselves to ensure that we have an inclusive curriculum that meets their needs. . Teenagers spend even more time online than children, so it is important to educate them on the dangers of the digital world as well. MCI and DW Akademie decided on an age group of 13- to 16-year-olds. We trainers received special training in how to pass on our knowledge to them. It is important to note, the experiences of teenagers differ from the ones of children – some have already experienced hate speech, sexual harassment, or even cyber bullying. So, the way we need to teach them and discuss certain topics has to be way more sensitive. The MIL4TEENZ curriculum focuses even more on digital safety and privacy rules and settings. I am confident that this is a big step towards a more literate society in Uganda, when it comes to media.