Teens Increasingly Rely On Social Media For News

This week a report from the BBC likely wasn’t seen by all that many younger “eyeballs” – which is to be expected as the news outlet cited new research from Ofcom that found most teenagers are turning away from traditional media outlets, and instead are now getting most of their news from social media.

Print, television, and radio are still the main sources of news for seniors, but Instagram is the number one news source for young people. YouTube and TikTok are closely following.

The study showed that teens prefer “scrolling” through social media feeds to keep up with the latest news. Yih-Choung Teh is Ofcom’s director of strategy and research. He stated, via a statement: “And although they find social media less reliable than traditional news sources, these sites are rated higher for providing a variety of views on today’s top stories.”

First True Social Media Generation

This trend might seem obvious to others, but it is important to remember that the Baby Boomers were actually the first generation of people to have television. Television largely replaced radio and newspapers in news sources.

Given the fact that people born between 2005 and 2010, have not lived in a world that was not dominated by social media, it isn’t surprising to see that many now prefer social media over traditional media. This raises questions about how reliable the information shared on timelines, homepages, and pages for your pages is. Sam O’Brien (chief marketing officer at Affise), said that this has raised concerns.

O’Brien explained in an email that although some social media outlets may credit trusted news sites with their information, others might be sharing misleading, inaccurate, or unreliable sources. Young audiences could take distorted and even false news stories as facts. According to the study, 65 percent of teens rely on their families for news. It is probable that their parents haven’t yet started using TikTok. Teens will continue to consume news through traditional sources like their mom and dad.

O’Brien noted further that many news stories shared by mainstream outlets were actually sourced from sites like Youtube or TikTok. This serves as a reminder of the necessity for traditional media to keep up with new social platforms and remain relevant to young audiences in order to attract their attention.

“Teenagers are part of the digital-first generation which has grown up with readily available and easily accessible social media channels wherever they are around the clock, seeing it as simply another content channel,” said Sarah Penny, content & research director at Influencer Intelligence.

She said that the naturalization of social networking among young people means that they trust the channels. The channels also have evolved to accommodate this shift in use, offering educational and entertaining content as well as inspiration and entertainment. “Compared to older generations, they have been raised in a different environment, with less access or without social media, so may not be as trusting these channels. For their news, they prefer to read newspapers and listen to radio.

Don’t trust the social network

Notable is the fact that while younger people are using social media to consume their news, 30 percent of them still believe it to be less reliable than traditional media. However, they continue to rate these services higher due to the availability of a variety opinions about the most current stories.

O’Brien said that “This highlights how mainstream media could use the news being posted on socials within their own news agendas, to gain back readership of younger audience.”

“More often than not, social influencers popular with 11-16 year olds are of a similar – if not slightly older – age range to their biggest fans, so it’s understandable that these young audiences would be more inclined to believe and trust the opinions and sources being shared by those they consider to be a likeminded peers,” he noted. The social influencers that have a lot of followers among this age group enjoy the privilege of being able educate and share information with young and vulnerable people. Before they click share, it is crucial to make sure their thoughts are clear.

Which Influence Does It Have?

Influencers on social media are changing the dynamic.

Penny stated that she has seen this generational divide in the way people perceive and relate to influencers. The younger generation is more likely to trust them. They are also more likely connect on an individual level with their creators, and so they can rely on them for both information and recommendations.

Penny said that although trust in social media has been affected by disinformation concerns across generations, it still has the ability to democratically voice opinions, which allows users to speak their mind and make their voices heard. However, trust in politics has been eroded, causing distrust in news organizations and promoting tribalism. This can also lead to biases and increased scepticism. This may further increase trust in social media outlets as news sources.



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