Media Literacy and Young People

A series of projects have sought to understand how young Australians engage with news media, what news literacy abilities they possess and what support their receive in school, what they think of news organisations, and how they would like news to develop and evolve in the future.

Background and significance

In the first stage of our research (Phase 1, 2017-2018) we partnered with Crinkling News to carry out a national survey. We found that most young Australians (aged 8-16 years) value news and consume it regularly. However, most don’t know how to spot fake news – yet they are not receiving news media literacy training at school. Young Australians also have very low levels of trust in news media organisations: they trust their family and teachers far more as news sources.

In second stage of our research (Phase 2, 2019-2020) we worked with Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD) to develop the news media literacy of young Australians. This project supported and complemented a new exhibition at MoAD titled, Truth Power and a Free PressThis project was funded by MoAD, Google Australia, Western Sydney University and Queensland University of Technology with in-kind support from ABC Education.

The project activities included:

  • A snapshot media analysis study to examine the inclusion and representation of young Australians in the news.
  • A national survey to examine the news practices and experiences of young Australians aged 8-16 years.
  • Contributing to the design, implementation and evaluation of the major exhibition, Truth Power and a Free Press.
  • A major event and mentoring process to support young Australians to become News Champions.
  • The development of a media literacy framework for the digital age to support the design of news engagement and learning materials.
  • Workshops to engage young Australians and school teachers to develop news exhibition content and news literacy learning resources and activities.
  • A survey of Australian primary and high school teachers to investigate whether – and how – they teach students about news media in the classroom

In the third (current) stage of the research we will implement an updated survey in 2023 to examine the news practices and media literacy of young Australians aged 8-16 years.

National Benefit

Prior to this series of projects, very little was known about young Australians’ news engagement and news literacy and no nationally representative data existed. This prevented civil society organisations, public institutions, and governments from designing evidence-based responses to address needs and challenges. To address this, the project:

  • Surveyed a nationally representative sample of 1,069 young Australians aged 8-16 years to understand their news engagement practices and experiences
  • Analysed 276 news stories across 8 newspapers and 4 television news bulletins to assess how young people are included and represented in Australian news media
  • Survey 295 Australian school teachers from every state and territory in Australia and interviewed 20 teachers
  • Developed a media literacy framework which has now been adopted by the Australian Media Literacy Alliance
  • Mentored 21 young News Champions from every state and territory in Australia for 12 months
  • Developed exhibition materials and engaged with the media to advocate for young people’s involvement in debates and discussions about the future of news media

Our research was cited by the ACCC in their Digital Platform Inquiry final report (opens in a new window) in relation to two recommendations to government regarding media literacy. First, the ACCC recommended that the government review how media literacy is taught in schools as part of the National Curriculum Review. This has now resulted in changed to the National Curriculum. Second, that the government invest in media literacy initiatives across the country. Our research is being used to inform a Federal Government media literacy policy and program.

Our research on young Australians and news media was cited in a discussion paper (opens in a new window) commissioned by ACMA to inform their 2019-20 research program.

Our research has been used to inform numerous media literacy initiatives for young people including NewsHounds (for primary school children), ABC Education Media Literacy Resources (for high school students), the National Film and Sound Archives Media and Me program (for 9-14 year olds), the Museum of Australian Democracy’s media literacy resources (for 9-14 year olds) and the esmart Media Literacy Lab (for high school students).

Research Team


Phase 1 of the project was funded by Crinkling News, Western Sydney University and Queensland University of Technology.

Phase 2 was funded by the Museum of Australian Democracy (MoAD), Google Australia, Western Sydney University and Queensland University of Technology with in-kind support from ABC Education.

Phase 3 of the research has been funded by Meta.