News & Stories

Making sense of news – fact from fiction

ABC/University media research aimed at empowering teenagers.

Being bombarded with information from various digital media and social media platforms is a daily reality for the majority of teenagers.

Deciphering the plethora of information can be overwhelming, especially with artificial intelligence and bots in the mix.

The University of Tasmania in partnership with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) has embarked on a media literacy project with the aim to provide an evidence based input into these very challenges.

ABC Media Education Partnerships Manager, Dr Jocelyn Nettlefold, said the project is a first of its kind in Australia and hopes to empower teenagers to better navigate the complicated news and information landscape.

With the rise of misinformation in the digital age, information is spread really fast and at unprecedented volumes. There are some very significant consequences emerging and all this is happening at a time of declining public trust in journalism.

She explained that the ABC media literacy project emerged from some of the evidence surfacing towards the end of her PhD, which was looking at local citizen engagement, and specifically, the erosion of local media.

“It was apparent that the public broadcaster recognised it had a role in terms of equipping and empowering citizens to participate in public discourse.

“However, how the ABC should respond really needs to be driven by evidence based research. So a very effective and relevant partnership was developed between the ABC and the University of Tasmania to really explore some of these questions about youth participation.”

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Why engage teenagers?

Dr Nettlefold said research from the United States indicates teenagers spend up to nine hours a day online.

“By understanding more about how and what information they're receiving, we can empower teenagers collectively through schools, public policy, media organizations, and academia to navigate the news effectively, verify the information they're receiving, and to apply critical thinking to the issues and challenges they may be encountering online,” she said.

We need to equip them to participate effectively rather than purely being just consumers of propaganda advertising and misinformation. Teenagers do a lot of questioning and it's very important they have the right tools and knowledge to help them ask the right questions.


Initial research has been to survey teachers around Tasmania to identify what is needed in Australian classrooms that would make it easier for students to engage and develop their critical thinking skills around media access and participation.

“We want to know what teachers need to really support the curriculum objectives under media arts and to support their efforts to ensure that students are accessing really good sources of news and information across any subject,” Dr Nettlefold said.

We're also developing a state-of-the-field paper really looking at the place for media organisations to be involved in this challenge following research that's emerged from Europe and the United States.

Tasmania: the perfect state for research

"Tasmania is a good place to do this research. We not only have a small metropolitan environment to study in, we also have regional and remote challenges that can be factored into some of the research.

"The University of Tasmania positions this research really effectively because we can collaborate constructively in this small state through trusted relationships with other institutions, with the levels of government, and potentially the private sector where appropriate."

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