Here is a crash course for young people and youth workers interested in media literacy

Author: Harry Tsatryan

Don’t you think that we live in an interconnected world, where media significantly shapes our perceptions, influences opinions, and drives social change? If you still think about rhetoric question raised in the previous sentence, then better don’t continue reading this media piece.

Now it is less important where one is based, as the internet allows connecting people and ideas. To cope with the modern trends and be aware of many digital traps, youth workers and young people must navigate the media landscape with critical thinking, discernment, and, most importantly, media literacy skills, at least on a basic level.

I strongly believe that media literacy empowers individuals to become active participants in the digital age, enabling them to consume, analyze, and create media content responsibly. I will start a series of short publications aiming to provide youth workers and young people with valuable insights, strategies, tools and resources to enhance their media literacy competencies and make informed choices in the media-rich environment.

Checking the facts is one of the main functions of the work of journalists. But why only trust them if everyone can learn the basics of fact-checking and do the same as journalists do in their daily work? The spread of possible misinformation in the Internet environment is becoming an increasingly serious problem worldwide. Originally I am from Armenia. Almost my whole life I spent in this small land located between Eastern and Western cultures, in the middle of Asia and Europe. I was based in the US for the last two years, and now I live in Slovakia: I can confirm that spreading disinformation is not a European, American, or Armenian problem. It’s now an issue everywhere. Who knows, it’s a problem somewhere in the other galaxy as well, but we don’t have that much knowledge to think about that.

On the other hand, the Internet itself allows one to receive a huge amount of information that requires verification, as many sources are not verified. There are many tools and tricks for checking information available on the internet. Let’s start with the basics: advanced searching on search engines.

The very first fact-checking skills come when one begins using search engines, which allow, for example, to find the source of photos or traces of a given e-mail address, etc. Don’t you know that you can do that? Follow the text below to learn a bit more.

Among the search engines, the main tool used is “Google” for a very simple reason: this system has the largest database on the internet. But it should be taken into account that no search engine has complete data about all pages of the entire internet. For this reason, during the learning process of advanced searching, it is preferable to use alternative search engines as well because some data may not be found in “Google”, but will be hidden in another system. Have you ever heard about Wolfram Alpha? Now you should try it. The platform answers factual queries by computing answers from externally sourced data.

One can use the “Yandex” system to search for content in Russian language, or more precisely, Cyrillic pages because it understands Russian better in many cases. However, “Yandex” is also applicable for searches in Turkish, as this organization works separately in the Turkish direction and even has a special Turkish version. Do you know that language? If so, then we suggest you try! Another alternative is platform developed by the Microsoft team. If you suddenly need to search for the Chinese section, you can also use China’s “Google” – Try it as well.

Search engines have additional tools that people usually do not use. Unfortunately, based on my experience most cases are because of not being even aware of those tools. However, those tools are important not only for investigative journalism and fact-checking.

“Google” has additional “search operators/commands” that allow you to narrow the search of the network to one site, remove “keywords”, find files of the desired format, etc.

Useful operators/commands that one can use when searchinginformation:

  • – use this command if you want to search on a specific site
  • filetype:pdf – search for a specific type of file, for example: pdf, doc, ppt, txt
  • “-word” – removing a word you don’t want to have from the search
  • “text” – use the phrase in “” to search the exact text 
  • – viewing the cached version of the page on the Google database

In addition, the system has an additional toolkit, which is accessible through the “Tools” button when one does searching. Here you can instruct to display materials only from a given period, select photos of a specific size, videos of a specific duration, etc.

Try all the commands, and feel free to come back to the European Dialogue team and me if you need more specific support.

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