The Challenge – animation for media education

This animation focuses on social media and various themes that are relevant to young people today: social relationships and acceptance, identity building, and issues related to self-esteem and self-respect. The topic of this animation also allows viewers to reflect on social media as a tool for forming one’s own means of expression and participation. The target audience of this animation is children in grades 7–9. 

Social media is one of the most important social environments for many young people today. They use it to form their perceptions of the lifestyles, expressions, content production forms or skills that are considered personally desirable or that are accepted by the communities they care about. A person’s self-knowledge will develop throughout their life, but seeking one’s identity and direction are particularly topical issues for young people. In this case, a young person may explore different roles and interests and try to find or compete for their place in different communities, even on the internet.

People express themselves on social media through texts, images, video clips and memes by sharing and responding to content produced by others. Social media users use these methods to tell stories about themselves and give others tips – either consciously or unconsciously – about what they are like and which social groups they feel that they belong in.

In many cases, the ways in which people use social media and the identities they create focus mostly on the kinds of social communities that they feel like they belong to and identify with. These digital communities can represent important sources of influence and inspiration for forming one’s own identity. They can also become important channels for young people who wish to be seen and heard. People use social media communities to find like-minded people and new friends who share the same interests. While peer support is important, it is equally important for people to meet other people and encounter different views online, to expand one’s thinking and provide new perspectives.

From time to time, it is a good idea to examine how the self-image that one conveys to others via social media corresponds to their own internal experience. For young people, experimenting with different roles or identities online can be an important part of finding oneself. In addition to what they share deliberately, young people can consider what parts of their identity are hardly visible or completely invisible on social media.

The need to be seen and accepted, sometimes in the eyes of a certain person or community in particular, and the desire to be part of a group are basic human needs, and many people seek to fulfil these need on social media. When one interacts with others, they receive feedback on whether they are sufficient or accepted. Occasionally, it may even seem cruel if the attention that an individual receives – or lack thereof – becomes very visible to others on social media.

In one way or another, experiences of exclusion are familiar to many people from the different stages of their youth. However, when it comes to social media, one should remember that they most likely are not alone in their feelings or thoughts. Even the most popular social actors are likely to feel incomplete or unsuccessful from time to time. Ultimately, what people see on social media is only a small fraction of a person’s entire being. In any case, everyone can contribute to creating a safe social media culture where everyone can feel accepted as they are.

Different social media influencers and communities may create models or codes that their members must adhere to in action and thought in order to be a part of that group or community. At times, such frameworks or challenges may seem narrow, contradictory or contrary to one’s own values. Therefore, it is important for people to be aware of the phenomena and people on social media who shape their identities and influence their thoughts. Young people should be supported in recognising their strengths and the values that are important to them, so that these can serve as the foundation for a positive self-image. A good sense of self-esteem is also a source of support for people who engage with social media.

Remember that social media can also offer young people a wide range of opportunities for positive agency and self-expression. Each young person is a unique personality who not only enriches but also actively builds different communities online. Young people today can use their online presence to highlight their different skills and competences more extensively than ever before. Expressing oneself is a valuable media skill in itself, and promoting one’s creativity on social media also serves to inspire and delight others.

Text: Rauna Rahja, Osuuskunta Dadamedia

Image: Filmbutik

The animation and pedagogical section support the media literacy skills of grade 7–9 pupils by focusing on the New Literacies development programme’s competence practices for Creative Expression, Own Media Production, and Wellbeing.

The Online Life animated series, produced by the National Audiovisual Institute (KAVI), has been designed for children and young people of different age groups. Each animation includes a set of pedagogical material to support the discussion of its themes. The material can be used both in early childhood education and care and in pre-primary and comprehensive education. It can also be used in other situations, such as supporting the media education provided by libraries or at home.

Published under the CC BY-NC license

Animation and pedagogical support material

Animation: The Challenge
Support questions for discussing the animation’s themes
The Challenge – animation for media education