Youth Perspectives

These social media channels are where UK teens get their news

Despite being a top news source, social media is still the least trusted amongst young people.

Despite being a top news source, social media is still the least trusted amongst young people. Image: Unsplash/ROBIN WORRALL

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are the most popular sites in the UK for 12- to 15-year-olds to get their news, according to Ofcom.
  • Despite being a top news source, social media is still the least trusted amongst young people.
  • News from family and radio and TV is more trusted.
  • COVID-19 showed the vital importance of digital platforms and also the need to stamp out misinformation.

Social media sites are the top news sources for young people in the United Kingdom, a new report shows.

Instagram, TikTok and YouTube are the most popular places in 2022 for 12- to 15-year-olds to get news, finds Ofcom, the UK’s communications regulator, in its News Consumption in the UK: 2022 report.

Several social media platforms feature among the top news sources used by 12- to 15-year-olds in the UK, according to Ofcom.
Several social media platforms feature among the top news sources used by 12- to 15-year-olds in the UK, according to Ofcom. Image: Ofcom

Insta is top for teen news

Almost a third of young people choose Instagram for news, making it the most popular news source for the UK’s 12-15 age group.

TikTok and YouTube are next, with 28% each of young people following them for news.

Although social media sites are heavily followed for news, they’re the least trusted news sources, alongside friends, Ofcom notes.

Only 30% of those aged 12-15 believe news stories on social media are accurate. When it comes to receiving the information from friends, the score is 37%.

Family and broadcast news are more trusted than social media

“Family, radio and TV are seen as the most truthful news sources,” Ofcom adds.

Almost 80% of young people said the news they heard from family was either ‘always’ or ‘mostly’ accurate. Radio and TV scored 72% and 65% respectively for accuracy.

That said, more than half of young social media users in the survey still said they trusted YouTube (51%) and Twitter (52%).

Changing media consumption

Ofcom says its research shows how different age groups consume news differently. While younger people are much more likely to use the internet and social media for news, older people prefer print, radio and TV.

Among adults, print and online newspapers combined have seen a decline in use from 47% in 2020 to 38% in 2022.

This has probably been worsened by the pandemic, Ofcom says.

The UK’s 16- to 24-year-olds are most likely to get their news from the internet and social media.
The UK’s 16- to 24-year-olds are most likely to get their news from the internet and social media. Image: Ofcom

COVID-19 content spike

Other studies have shown how global COVID-19 lockdowns hugely impacted media consumption habits.

In the UK and United States, more than 80% of consumers reported consuming more media content since the start of the outbreak, Global Web Index found. Broadcast TV and online videos on YouTube and TikTok were the top places for content across all generations and genders.

Playing computer games was one of the most popular online activities amongst younger people.

Gen Z and Millennials go online for different things

Young people in the Generation Z age group – those born roughly between 1995 and 2010 – were “more likely to be listening to music than searching for news”, Global Web Index said. For Millennials – those born between 1980 and 1994 – searching for cooking recipes was a key activity.

A separate Global Web Index report finds countries with younger populations spend more time on social media. Nigeria, the Philippines and India are the world’s top three countries for time spent on social media in 2021.

Misinformation is a media threat

Digital and social media platforms are vital ways of getting information to people quickly, especially during crises, experts say.

But the spread of misinformation also hampered the pandemic response and highlighted the need for news sources to be trusted.

In an article on cybercrime predictions for 2022, the Nasdaq stock exchange predicts misinformation campaigns and ‘deep fake’ technology will be key threats.

To fully harness the potential of digital technology, cybersecurity must be prioritized in every sector of society, the World Economic Forum says in its Global Cybersecurity Outlook 2022. “Much still needs to be done to arrive at a shared understanding of how to strengthen cyber resilience,” says the Forum’s Managing Director, Jeremy Jurgens.

“Cyberspace transcends borders. We therefore need to mobilize a global response to address systemic cybersecurity challenges.”

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