[Digital Brief] How Youth Navigate the News Landscape (Knight Foundation)

March 21, 2017

Teens and young adults (ages 14-24) express low levels of trust in the news media and use a variety of strategies to confirm, verify, and clarify the stories they care about, according to a study produced by Data & Society and supported by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, "How Youth Navigate the News Landscape." Among the key findings:

  • The way young people encounter and understand news in their daily lives is rapidly evolving
    • In an age of smartphones and social media, young people don’t follow the news as much as it follows them.
    • News is frequently encountered by accident and in interstitial moments, as young people dip into flows of news across various platforms.
    • Youth news sharing practices are varied, and certain behaviors—such as taking screenshots—may elude current tools to record and track traffic to news platforms.
    • Many young people assume that a news industry that is driven by advertising will continue to take on new forms and eventually permeate every aspect of their lives.
  • Most teens and young adults express low levels of trust in the news media and are relying on networked strategies to help them navigate the stories they most care about.
    • Teens and young adults expressed widespread skepticism about the news and assume that much of the information they encounter may be inaccurate or biased.
    • Teens and young adults often consult multiple news sources to verify the stories they encounter.
    • A news source is considered more credible when its biases are known.
  • Many of today’s news-related attitudes and behaviors among youth can be traced to larger structural changes in the journalism industry.
    • Young people’s concept of what constitutes “the news” is amorphous and often extends well beyond the content produced by traditional journalistic institutions.
    • News is “depressing,” but it is something you need to know.
    • Sharing news and opinions on social media is seen as having the potential to negatively affect one’s online reputation.
    • Many participants consider user-generated content—especially live video—to be more trustworthy than mainstream media sources.