The Alannah & Madeline Foundation, a national children’s not-for-profit, has partnered with VicHealth and expert advisors to build online education resources for secondary school students as part of its innovative eSmart Media Literacy Lab.
These learning modules focus on effective strategies to handle exposure to harmful digital marketing practices and of certain products. This relates to advertising that promotes alcohol, unhealthy food, sugary drinks and gambling products.
The new media literacy resources enable secondary school students to cast a critical and mindful eye over harmful digital marketing that aims to normalise harmful products and entice them into potentially dangerous consumption.
Sarah Davies, CEO of the Foundation, said: “Marketing of harmful products is ubiquitous in Australian society, with children and young people exposed to a wide range of pervasive and often covert online marketing practices.
“This covert marketing is also seen as a child’s rights-based issue. Our partner UNICEF, for example, is advocating for governments to adopt a child’s rights-based approach to digital marketing to ensure the child’s best interests are always the primary consideration.
“Through three new VicHealth modules in the eSmart Media Literacy Lab, they’ll also understand the risks involved when our children are repeatedly exposed to harmful products.”
Launched in 2020, the eSmart Media Literacy Lab is a first-of-its-kind resource for school students aged 12-16 that equips them with the critical thinking skills they need to effectively navigate the media and online environments.
The VicHealth modules focus on general media literacy and health promotion, with tailored learning content and questions specific to each harmful industry. These will provide new learning content taught in a narrative ‘story world’ environment, with fictional and real-world examples.
They include content on marketing harmful products, children’s rights and data privacy, age verification, exposure and consumption insights and types and techniques of digital marketing.
Emma Saleeba, commercial determinants of health manager for VicHealth, said: “While young people explore, learn and connect online, harmful industries are right there with them. Marketing their products anytime and anywhere they want.
“Alcohol, unhealthy food and gambling companies are constantly using innovative digital marketing approaches, which can make it hard for both kids and adults to tell when something is an advert in disguise.
“We can empower our kids to identify and understand these harmful tactics, but this can’t happen alone. Government policy must lead the way in ensuring that the digital environment protects children.”
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