Social media as a news source for teens?

Posted: October 30, 2019

More teens get news from web

Teenagers are more frequently getting news and updates on current events from social media rather than traditional news organizations, a survey conducted by Common Sense Media and SurveyMonkey found.

SurveyMonkey, an online guide to creating professional surveys, along with Common Sense Media, a website focused on reviewing media for children and families, orchestrated a survey investigating teens’ engagement with today’s current events. The respondents were selected out of over 2 million people in the United States. The 1,005 people selected ranged from 13 to 17 years old. The survey was conducted June 14-25, 2019.

The study showed that only 15 percent of teens read the newspapers or websites of professional news organizations daily, like The New York Times or The Washington Post. Thirteen percent watch TV news daily. Compared to the 29 percent that get news from social media sites like Twitter and Instagram and the 23 percent that consume theirs from YouTube every day, it is a considerable difference. 

The study also shows that it is more common for teens to consume news a few times a week rather than every day. It says that 54 percent of teens consume news from social media sites, with 50 percent consuming news from YouTube a few times a week. The margin is noticeably smaller, with 41 percent reading newspapers or websites of professional organizations and 37 percent watching the news on TV a few times a week. 

It could be argued that teenagers and young adults utilize social media as news sources more than adults. 

A survey conducted in 2018 by Pew Research Center found that social media is the most popular news source for 18-29 year old Americans at 36 percent. The young adults are more than four times more often to use social media as news sources than Americans 65 years and older. The 18-29 year olds still count as adults, but they were the youngest group surveyed. 

Both studies show that the youngest generations are utilizing social media platforms as news sources much more than the older generations.

“My grandpa, he still reads the newspaper and that’s just how he gets his news,” said senior Izzy Peterson. “And I think out of convenience our generation likes having everything in the palm of our hands and instant gratification, but I feel like younger generations also have lower standards when it comes to the trustworthiness of our sources, so I think that has a huge impact on it.”

Nevertheless, teens are consuming more news from social media and online sites than ever before. Why? 

The study reported that teens prefer news through visual forms above other forms like podcasts and long news stories. 

“A majority (64 percent) say that seeing pictures and videos showing what happened gives them the best understanding of major news events, while just 36 percent say they’d prefer to read or hear the facts about what happened,” the Common Sense Media and Survey Monkey study said.

But, is the news they are consuming accurate?

A significant 61 percent said that information presented to them by influencers on social media is often inaccurate. On the other hand, 38 percent said influencers usually “get the facts straight.” When it comes to legitimate news organizations, 70 percent said that news reported by them is often accurate. Only 28 percent said their stories are often inaccurate. 

Senior Patrick Cullinan recognizes the risk of trusting serious information on social media.

“I don’t trust [social media]. I think people put a lot of value in social media with no good reason to,” said Cullinan. “They’ll say that they do background research and they check their sources when really they don’t.”

Most teens agreed that their main source of news is often inaccurate. So, why do they still rely on social media platforms? 

Fifty three percent claimed that social media sites helped them better understand what is going on in the world today. Fifty six percent claimed that YouTube was helpful in the same way. Although, news organizations come out on top with 65 percent who say news organizations help them increase their understanding of current events. 

Whether or not teenagers have found a beneficial way of consuming news and current event updates, 78 percent agree that it is important to follow current events in the news. While 22 percent claim it is not important. 

The randomly selected few that filled out this survey is only a small percentage of teens in America today. There are millions of teenagers who are trying to keep up, who are trying to make a difference. Teens are tuned into what is going on in the world, even if their efforts go unnoticed or are criticized by others.


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