Online critical literacy during a Pandemic
Since 2019, the Cybercrime Awareness Clinic has represented the University of Portsmouth on Project Orpheus: Offline and online Radicalisation Prevention Holding back Extremism and Upholding Security.
Orpheus is a three-and-a-half year project with eight partners from the UK, Belgium, France and the Netherlands, funded by the European Union Commission Intereg2Seas.
ORPHEUS aims to steer young people away from violent extremist responses to social grievances and therefore provides training that assists youth workers, teachers and other professionals working with young people to develop the skills and confidence they need to:
- create safe spaces for young people
- address sensitive issues in open dialogue with young people
- support young people to address their grievances
Covid-19 and online critical literacy
Due to the unprecedented nature of the pandemic, we entered the national lockdown with little time to prepare. Many were left unemployed, on furlough or had to work from home. Children, young people and University students had to adapt to online provision and home schooling and everyone had to spend more time online socialising, shopping and working.
However, as Dr. Vasileios Karagiannopoulos, Director of the Clinic highlights, the pandemic has undoubtedly increased the rate of cyber-related threats, which makes it even more crucial for the public to be aware of the possible online threats.
The above underlines the importance of our online critical literacy training, since building resilience to online threats can help us safeguard our online and offline assets and protect our friends and families.
Online critical literacy
In a previous blog post, we described the risks posed by extremist groups that use the internet to spread propaganda, normalise hateful behaviours and recruit young people to join their causes.
Research conducted by the National Literacy Trust in 2018 concluded that fake news, one form of false information young people may encounter online, increases children’s anxiety, damages their self-esteem and skews their worldview. They also found that only 2% of children had the critical literacy skills they needed to be able to identify if news was fake or real.
In order to build resilience to these risks, it is, thus, vital that young people develop their online critical literacy. This means developing their skills and confidence to effectively evaluate information online and to be able to identify misleading or manipulative content.
Training development for professionals
The Clinic team has liaised closely with colleagues from Greta Grand Littoral, a French education and training provider, to develop a comprehensive training programme for teachers, youth workers and other professionals who work with young people.
The main objective of this training is to help professionals develop their own online critical literacy, equipping them with the skills and confidence they need to be able to, in turn, support and empower the young people they work with to use the internet safely.
Topics covered by the training include identification of different types of false information, distribution methods online, the impact of personal views on information interpretation and fact-checking tips. The training is now being piloted in each of the project’s regions and its finalised version will become part of Project Orpheus’s downloadable toolkit for professionals later in the year.
The pandemic has certainly changed our lives, as the public has been introduced to more remote working environments and sophisticated cyberthreats. Despite the many challenges ORPHEUS has faced during the pandemic, we continue to work collaboratively towards our aims.
For more information on project ORPHEUS, please be sure to visit the official website.