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Aspects and interrelationships of digital and media literacy in the context of generations

Being literate in the digital and media environment - that is no longer a choice of society, but rather one of the requirements of the 21st century.

**This blog was originally published in Latvian and translated by EPALE Ireland.**

Author: MSc. Ed. Jolanta Zastavnaja.


The worldwide globalization and the fast-moving development of technology affects the society to a large extent, it also contributes to digital literacy and the fast development of media, which, in its turn, changes the way the society gets in touch, communicates with each other, studies and works. Everyday activities are replaced by the same activities, only in digital environment. Being literate in the digital and media environment - that is no longer a choice of society, but rather one of the requirements of the 21st century. The fast-moving development of digital technology is also influenced by the employers who are the ones that set the necessary skills for the employees.


7 most wanted employee skills in 2018 are mentioned on the website One of the seven skills mentioned is the ability to use social media. (7). Digital literacies are relevant not only to employees, but also to economically inactive senior citizens.

The whole world is talking about improving the quality of life for senior citizens and their socializing in the society. A study about socializing of senior citizens in society was conducted in Canada. 80% of senior citizens in Canada are socially active, namely, those who go out once a month. Meanwhile, 20% of senior citizens avoid social life by going out less than once a month. In relation with this study about socially inactive senior citizens, their loneliness is associated with consequences such as high risk of death, physical and mental problems, etc. (15). Senior citizens need socializing that improves their quality of life. One of the solutions as to how to socialize senior citizens is to offer them to acquire digital literacies

The term “Digital literacy” in Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers - “the ability to use the means of digital technology and communications in order to find, evaluate, use and generate information. It also refers to the ability to understand and use information in different formats and sources that are available in the digital environment”. (3)

Authors of the journal article “Digital Literacy and Informal Learning Environments” Ēriks M. Meiers and Ingrīda Ēriksona write the following with respect to digital literacy skills: “It is being considered that digital literacy skills are acquired in school, however, digital literacy is rather being acquired in informal learning environments, for instance, libraries, museums, different social groups” (1). The statement of these authors can be applied to any generation, including senior citizens, who acquire digital literacy in informal environments.

Within the framework of informal education, senior citizens in Latvia were offered computer training courses, in order to acquire digital literacy skills and apply them in everyday life. Computer training courses took place already back in 2012, within the framework of “Pieslēdzies, Latvija!” The courses were designed for senior citizens from ages 56 to 75. The oldest senior citizen was 94.

After the project, the participants were interviewed about the possibilities to apply the acquired skills in their lives. Senior citizens mentioned that they would apply the skills acquired in the training by reading news online, paying bills online, using social media sites, using skype, shopping online, watching Youtube videos and playing computer games. It can be concluded that senior citizens are happy and excited about the acquired digital literacies. The senior citizens mentioned that the biggest benefit of this project is that these computer training courses provide an opportunity for them to become more knowledgeable about what is happening both in Latvia and in the world. Their self-confidence and sense of belonging in society has also been increased, they have become more socially active, communicate more often with their loved ones, feel more modern and are able to establish better contact with other generations, for instance, their children, grandchildren.(16) Judging from the answers of senior citizens, it can be concluded that the willingness of the older generation to use Internet services is also related to the fact that their children and grandchildren are active users of social networks and that the 21st century digital literacy plays a major role in everyday life. Consequently, senior citizens can also feel like a part of the technological society in which they fit in, can communicate, express their opinion.

A study conducted by Tele 2 in 2018, revealing that 70% of people over the age of 60 already use a smartphone, confirms that senior citizens are more interested in and willing to learn digital skills. According to the data collected by Tele 2, it can be concluded that the use of Internet on the phone by senior citizens over the age of 65, has increased three times, or by 230%. It can be concluded that the senior citizens are happy to use internet for their needs. Besides, senior citizens choose using internet on their mobile devices, while the using internet on the computer is decreasing. Raivo Rosts, director of Tele 2's commercial department, believes that the fast-growing use of mobile internet among senior citizens can be explained both by the development of mobile services on the Internet and also by the increased technology literacy among senior citizens.(13)

Regulations of the Cabinet of Ministers, regarding the term “media literacy - also, ability to use media, media skills. It is the set of literacies and skills required for work with sources of information - finding and analyzing information, understanding the functions of information providers, critically evaluating the contents of information, telling apart objective information from biased information, comparing the news available in different sources, in order to form a justified opinion. Media literacy also includes the ability to use media in practice."(3) The development of digital skills of senior citizens describes the trend that is so characteristic for the 21st century - self-improvement through learning new skills. With the rapid development of technology and the amount of information in both formal and informal education, media literacy is relevant.

Both digital and media literacy include not only knowledge and skills in the use of digital technologies, but also an ethical, creative and responsible use of digital media. Both literacies are interconnected and it is obvious that digital literacy goes hand in hand with media literacy, and one cannot exist without the other.

The relevance and the importance of digital literacy and media literacy in today's labor market is determined by the employers. Regarding the use of social media, Robin Kollner, director of digital and social agency Star Media in New York, says: "Social media literacy is one of the top five skills I see the employers looking for in employees. I have seen that, regardless of age, career, preference is given to those employees who have the skills to use social networks” (7).

A study, “Media literacy in Latvia” (2017) was conducted in Latvia. It was carried out by market and social research agency “Latvijas Fakti” on behalf of the Ministry of Culture. In this study, 1082 permanent residents of Latvia from ages 15 to 74 were interviewed. The survey enquired about the most popular media, that the respondents choose for obtaining news and information. Most respondents - 27% - choose; 16% -; 10% -; "Panorama" - 10%; LTV1 - 9%; LNT - 8%; 1. Baltic Channel - 8%; TV3 - 6%; LNT news -6%).(14) These data confirm that there is a tendency to replace the use of TV with a digital environment. The majority uses internet portals to get news and information. The first three places are occupied by internet media news portals, while "Panorama" is only in the 4th place.

"The study confirmed the importance of habits when choosing the media, as well as the situation that was already highlighted earlier in the survey conducted by the sociological research center SKDS, that people tend to inadequately assess the impact of the news. Data show that 83% of the respondents believe that media content influences public opinion, but only 47 % admit that it also has an impact on themselves. Only 22% of the respondents admit that on some occasions, they have had to believe biased or fabricated information, while 27% admit that they have not thought about this issue at all. In addition, 24% of the respondents believe that information in all media is the same or that there are no significant differences."(17) According to the author, here we can observe that the 83% of respondents who believe that media content influences public opinion have the ability to critically evaluate the offered media content.  Meanwhile, the 24%, who believe that the information in all media is the same, lack media literacy.

When it comes to more reliable sources of information, different age groups reveal significant differences in respondents' answers, relying more on different Internet resources or traditional public media, e.g. LTV1, etc. The study shows that the younger participants of the study use and rely rather on different Internet portals. Respondents under the age of 24 are the ones that use and rely on Internet resources the most. "The overall leader of the study, (mentioned by 25% of respondents), ranked first, while (mentioned by 15%), which was mentioned by a small number of respondents in other age groups came second. Older respondents mentioned traditional social networks as the most reliable media - LTV1 and Latvijas Radio more frequently (older foreigners - Russian TV channels)."(14)

It can be concluded, that the importance of digital and media literacy is different in the everyday life of each generation. The younger generation has a higher level of digital literacy than the older generation.

Journal "Comunicar" describes the study "The framework of Media Education and Media Criticism in the Contemporary World: The opinion of International Experts", in which 18 researchers, educators from 18 different countries who are experts in the field of media, regarding media literacy and media criticism, were interviewed. The article highlights a common goal between media literacy and critical thinking, which teaches critical evaluation of information in the media and media education, where the goal is to provide not only knowledge of how to work with a text and how to analyze it, but also to understand the mechanism of text construction and function, which includes skills of media literacy - critical thinking. (18)

"Audience that possesses media literacy, is the understanding and ability to manage and appreciate the media world (Camarero, 2013; Fantin, 2010; Huerta, 2011; Potter, 2011: 12)." (18) "The more developed the media literacy, the more opportunities there are to understand and critically evaluate the media world, its essence," emphasize the authors. In this aspect, the author draws a conclusion with regard to the previously mentioned study "Media literacy in Latvia", where it was mentioned that the respondents' answers are influenced by their age, education and regional affiliation. According to the data, it can be concluded that most frequently it is respondents with higher education who see the differences in different news materials. People with primary education mostly rely on information available in the social networks.(17) 

According to the data from a labor force survey, in 2016, 16.1% of senior citizens were economically active, whereas 83.9% were economically inactive. The majority, or 94.8%, of economically inactive senior citizens was not looking for work; 3.8% of senior citizens were not looking for work due to family or health conditions, while only 1% had lost hope of finding a job and 0.4% were not looking for work due to other reasons. The proportion of inactive retired citizens is the third lowest in the European Union. The 5 most common professions for employed senior citizens over 65 years of age have been examined: cleaning personnel, janitors, workers-on-duty in simple professions, shop assistants and auxiliaries, managing directors and company managers, other professions, that make up 81.9%.(11) 

In general, according to the data of the labor survey, it can be concluded that, in Latvia, digital skills are not necessary for people doing simple jobs, whereas it is difficult to draw conclusions about other professions, because those are not mentioned. Taking into account that only 1% of the senior citizens were looking for a job, while 94.8% of senior citizens weren’t, in this case, it can be concluded, on one hand, that digital skills are not relevant for senior citizens in labor market, on the other hand, taking into account the most common professions mentioned above, those do not require digital literacy. It is possible that the lack of digital literacy is the reason why senior citizens choose simple professions.

According to the data of the Central Statistical Bureau (CSB) regarding the employment of the population of Latvia in 2017, 68.9% of the population from ages 15 to 74 were economically active in Latvia, while third part of the population, neither employed nor actively looking for job - 31.1%. Out of these, in 2017 - 7.1% are non-employed retired citizens.(5)

According to the data of the Central Statistical Bureau, published in October 2018, "at the beginning of 2018, the average age of the population of Latvia was 42.4 years - 39.1 years for men and 45.2 years for women (at the beginning of 2011, respectively, 41.1, 37, 9 and 43.8). The average age of the population is lower in Pieriga Region (40.6 years), higher in Latgale (44.3 years)."(12)

Digital literacy and media literacy are necessary for residents of all age groups - both for those who are economically active and those who are not. According to the CSB, regarding the average age of the population in 2018, it can be concluded that it is the "Generation X" (1965-1979). With regard to “Generation X”, news portal has published the description of the generations, compiled by the television channel "National Geographic". "This generation initiates the development of technology, and besides, combines two essential personal values ​​- sense of responsibility and personal freedom."(4)

This generation are pioneers in learning technologies, whereas "Generation Y" or "Millenium generation" (1980-2000), as the news portal writes, "Generation Y has grown up with technologies, so it can be said that its use is in their blood. Armed with the latest technologies and devices, members of Generation Y are connected to the Internet 24-7"(4)

From the point of view of pedagogues, media literacy and digital literacy are a very critical issue in the work of teachers nowadays, especially when working online in Covid conditions.

Taking into account the characteristics of generations, about 60% of teachers belong to the middle generation (Baby Boomers), which is described as the post-war "demographic explosion" Generation of change and economic builders of that time, hard workers who often did not have enough time for family or rest. It was during the work of the middle generation that the concepts "workaholic" and "superwoman" arose. Status at work and social belonging are important for the middle generation. They stand out for their loyalty at work and often believe that one job is for life."(9) Perhaps, these generational characteristics is one of the reasons why this generation faithfully "serves" one profession and it is with great difficulty that they take a well-deserved rest and retire.

Middle generation teachers teach Generation Z (1995-2010) as well as Generation Alpha (2010-...).   "Generation Z is an online generation that grew up and is constantly connected - 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. That's why they tweet more than meet their friends in person." (9) This generation is free in its thoughts and expressions. Born around 1995 and later, who grew up in an environment free of speech and opinions. These are young people born in the 90s with perceptions and attitudes that are significantly different from previous generations. Same happens with Alpha generation, online children who feel comfortable in the digital world, using various programs on mobile devices, which the middle generation may not understand, because it is a different world that has not been experienced.

It must be concluded that the middle generation, speaking of both teachers and citizens in general, who have children, grandchildren, in order to maintain communication and "keep up with the times", must acquire digital literacies to use different tools in order not to get lost in the range of information and, potentially, help the Z and Alpha generation to evaluate the information available in the e-environment critically, as well as promote the ability to evaluate the formation, as well as promote honest activities in the virtual environment.

The level of development of media literacy is influenced by the level of a person's education. According to the Latvian study "Media Literacy in Latvia", people with higher education are able to see the differences in the media offer and are able to analyze them. The more educated the person is, the more media literacy they possess. The lower the level of education, the lower their judgment, analytical thinking.

For employers, analytical thinking is one of the must haves, when evaluating an employee. (6) It is one of the most important skills that one should have in order to present oneself as a stable, convincing and competitive employee in the labor market. The lack of digital literacy greatly reduces the competence of a student, employee, citizen. Digital literacy and media literacy can be linked to different generations. Characteristics of generations explain the habits of digital and media literacy and the knowledge to use them. (10)

The changes of the 21st century undoubtedly affect all generations. Not only employed-workers, including senior citizens - both economically active and those who are no longer economically active.  

By acquiring digital skills, ICT opportunities improve the quality of life for senior citizens. The "Handbook for Assessing the Impact of Educational Institutions on the Life Quality of Senior Citizens" states: "Virtual social groups, that form virtual communities or links between people with common interests, can be a useful way to get more information, enjoyment and support. ICT can be the most important way, how to integrate senior citizens into society, because sometimes they live in rural areas or their movements are limited due to disability."(2)


1. Journal (2013) "Learning, Media and Technology", Digital Literacy and Informal Learning Environments. Eric M. Meyers, Ingrid Erickson & Ruth V. Small Pieejams tiešsaitē:

2. Rokasgrāmata izglītības iestāžu ietekmes uz senioru dzīves kvalitāti novērtēšanai. Edu Sen projekta ietvaros. Pieejams tiešsaitē:

3. Ministru kabineta rīkojums Nr. 667 "Par Latvijas mediju politikas pamatnostādnēm 2016.-2020. gadam". Pieejams tiešsaistē:

4. TVNET ziņas. Ko par tavu attieksmi pret dzīvi stāsta tavas dzimšanas laiks Pieejams tiešsaitē:…

5. Centrālās statistikas pārvalde, Latvija. "Galvenie statistikas rādītāji, 2018." Pieejams interneta vietnē:

6. Analytical Skills Definition, List, and Examples (2018)

Pieejams tiešsaitē:

7. "These 7 work skills can make you more marketable to employers in 2018"

Pieejams tiešsaitē:

8. OECD: Latvijā liels sieviešu un gados vecāku skolotāju īpatsvars (2016)

Pieejams tiešsaitē:

9. "Cilvēks. Vērtība. Organizācija" Pieejams tiešsaitē:

10. Prezentācija "Paaudzes darba tirgū. Kā ar tām strādāt? Kādas pārmaiņas gaida nākotnē?" Pieejams tiešsaitē:

11. L"atvijas seniori ir strādīgākie Eiropā" (2017) Pieejams tiešsaitē:

12. Centrālā statistikas pārvalde "Demogrāfija" (2018) Pieejams tiešsaitē:

13.  Tele2 "Senioru vidū trīs reizes pieaugusi interneta lietošana telefonā" (2018) Pieejams tiešsaitē:

14. Kultūras ministrija. Latvijas iedzīvotāju medijpratība; 2017. gada jūnijs Pieejams tiešsaistē:

15. "A place for mum" (2017) "20 Facts about Senior Isolation That Will Stun You" Pieejams tiešsaitē:

16. TVNET ziņas "Seniori datoru visbiežāk izmanto ziņām un e-pastam" (2012) Pieejams tiešsaitē:

17. LV portāls "Medijpratība Latvijā" (2017) Pieejams tiešsaitē

18. Žurnāls Comunicar, nr. 45v. XXIII, (2015) Media Education Research Journal. "The framework of Media Education and Media Criticism in the Contemporary World: The opinion of International Experts."


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