Educating children in a digital world

Media play an important role in the lives of young people. That’s a good thing, but it can also present a challenge. How can you, as their parent or educator, show them the way in the digital world? In fact, don’t they know the way better than we do? In this dossier, you can discover how you, as a parent, teacher, professional, or simply as a grown-up, can get started on children and teenagers’ media education.

Questions about media education? Ask our experts Karen Linten of Bert Pieters.

What is media education?

When you engage in media education, you help children and teenagers to optimally use the opportunities presented by media, while at the same time guarding them from the potential pitfalls. In other words: you teach them to actively, consciously, creatively, and critically handle media. But how do you do that? It can seem like kids and teenagers are often quicker with media than we are. And yet, as an adult, you can teach them much more than you might think at first.

  • What does media education entail?

What is considered ‘media education’, and whose job is it? Discover what you need to know when you’re involved in the education of children and youngsters.

What is media education?

  • Does the ‘ideal’ media education exist?

There is no one correct way to engage in media education. And you don’t need to know everything yourself to get started with it. Read our tips.

How to ‘do’ media education

4 frequently asked questions about media education

Young children (until about 8 years old) are not yet able to think independently about what is and isn’t okay. It’s best to give them clear directions by creating rules and boundaries. With older children, you can come to agreements together and find compromises that work for everyone. What’s more: when you give them a say in the conversation, they are less likely to resist later.

Grandparents, friends’ parents, exes, … They all have their own views on children’s media education. They may have other rules than the household of the child or youngster in question. That’s not necessarily a problem: it’s good for children and teenagers to learn to deal with different contexts. But it’s also not a bad idea to have a chat with other adults in your child’s life if there are specific rules or agreements that you want to see enforced consistently.

Rules and agreements help children understand that there are boundaries, that not everything is acceptable, and that there are certain expectations that they need to respect, both now and later in life. These rules are essential when raising children, but you get to decide how to shape them. You can discuss everything that’s important to you as an educator with children (as long as they are old enough). That also means you don’t need rules and agreements about everything: you can play it by ear, and you’ll be able to sense when rules are and aren’t needed.

Settings for parental control can help adults keep an eye on device or app usage. However, this shouldn’t replace conversations between educators and children: talking should always be the first step. Checking on children or teenagers behind their backs is always a no-go: if you want them to be media literate and to come to you when they need help, trust is essential.

“Media education is like teaching children to ride a bike: you let them explore from a young age, but that doesn’t mean you simply push them into the road without side wheels.”
Karen Linten
Media education expert Mediawijs

What should you know as an educator?

You may want to help children or youngsters in your environment become more media literate, but have the feeling that you’re not fully up to scratch yourself either. Have a look at our many media literacy dossiers to discover all you need to know about each topic.

How children grow up with media

Children get to know the world step by step, including the media world. The older they get, the less they count on the help of adults. In our media growth line, you can discover what they can do independently at each age and what they still need guidance with.

Media education in numbers

9.4 years old

is the average age

when children first get a smartphone.

1 to 2 hours

is the average screen time per (week)day

for children up to 18.


of children with a disability

find it difficult to stop looking at a screen spontaneously


of 5- to 7-year-olds

occasionally tap and swipe on a tablet.


is the average age

at which children first create an account on social media.


of parents

indicate that their child has come across mean remarks on the internet.

Interesting research

  • MediaNest data (2021)

What’s the state of media usage and media education in Flemish households with children between 0 and 18 years old?

  • Apestaartjaren (2020)

Discover everything about the media usage of children between 6 and 18 years old.

  • EU Kids Online

European research into the experience of parents with children between 9 and 16 years old with the internet.

What parents want to know

How much screen time is appropriate? Should you talk to your child about porn? And what about your child’s online privacy? Parents rightly ask many questions about the media education of children. While some questions have clear answers, others do not. One thing is certain: clear communication and rules usually go a long way.

  • 4 concerns to take seriously

Discover which concerns are commonly voiced by parents and what you need to know about them.

Common concerns from parents

  • How to create rules and agreements

Talking and coming to agreements with your children, it can be easier said than done. Here’s how to start talking.

How to set rules

Media education for children with a disability

Children and young people with a disability often interact with media differently. For example, research shows that they use screens more often, but that they use media as a means of communication to a lesser extent. Discover a few points of interest when it comes to the media education of children with a disability, and how to deal with these as an educator.

Videos about media education

Meer video's

Turn on subtitles on YouTube for optimal use.

Resources (Belgian context)

  • Huis van het Kind

In the ‘house of the child’, parents and children can find all sorts of information about raising children and growing up. It’s a collaboration between organisations that provide childcare, health care, leisure activities, educational support, workshops, and more.

  • Opvoedingslijn

Raising children isn’t easy. Feeling lost? Contact the Opvoedingslijn for helpful advice.

  • Child Focus

Using the internet safely, how do you do that? Contact the Child Focus helpline for answers to all your questions.

  • Druglijn

Questions about gaming, alcohol, drugs, pills, or gambling? Contact Druglijn. You can call, e-mail or chat.

More information (Belgian context)

  • MediaNest answers questions for anyone involved in the media education of children and youngsters.
  • ParentsConnectés is the French version of MediaNest, in collaboration with Media Animation.
  • EXPOO answers all sorts of questions about raising children and the worlds of children and teenagers.
  • offers information on the education and development of children, as well as fun tips and activities to do together.
  • offers additional information about Ketnet initiatives and media literacy for parents. 
  • PEGI helps parents and other educators make well-considered decisions about purchasing video games with ratings and age classifications.
  • shows adults the way in the world of video games, safe gaming, and privacy of children in the game world.
  • gives parents information on dealing with new media in your household.