How important is for a young person to be informed about world events? Very – given that one in two claims to closely follow news on topics that interest them. And how important is family in keeping teens informed? Very, given that as many as 63% say they listen to and trust the conversation of adults at home to stay updated. These are the results from a recent survey from the Common Sense Media , who studied the information needs of American children by analysing their level of perception, use and selection of news and the media.
These results are far removed from the stereotype of kids in their bedrooms hypnotized in front of a video game console, devoid of interest and out of touch with world events. Of course, with great difficulty we’d see a child tune into news broadcasts or buy a newspaper – kids don’t really do that. However, this is encouraging data that highlights a desire on the part of youth to examine the world and become aware of it.
The results of the research
Here are the key results that have emerged from the research
- Young people like to keep themselves informed. Around 50% of those interviewed stated that they follow in a constant manner news that interests them, and more than 2/3 maintain that it makes them feel happy to be informed and prepared about what's happening in the world;
- Children demonstrate bewilderment when faced with a certain type of news . Some content, such as that related to war, violence and crime, may cause disturbance, anxiety and depression in respondents. The negativity of news is destabilising and they didn’t like it.
- Kids are often misled by fake news . Just under half of respondents claimed to be unable to distinguish between true and false news. The question of so-called "fake news" is deeply felt between them. Not having the experience and the critical sense and adult analysis, it becomes very difficult for them to recognize when a story is a hoax or not, thereby running the risk of contributing in person, especially on social media, to disseminate false news;
- Kids trust their families to believe the reliability of the news, but they prefer their sources to be social networks . 66% of them actually claim to believe the news they hear spoken by adults, but when they are keeping themselves up to date they primarily use social media;
- Young people see racial bias in the overall information landscape. 50% of them believes that when it comes to crime, violence, drugs, or other similar matter, reference is almost always to people of colour, African-American and Hispanics;
- Kids feel neglected and not represented in the news flow. Almost three quarters of respondents said that the media rarely speak of them. The kids feel neglected by the media and think that more space and information should be devoted to information about them
Research Methodology: lights and shadows
The research was carried out via questionnaires in January this year on a sample of 853 US teenagers between the ages of 10 and 18 years.
However, some points of criticism regarding the study should be pointed out, which may be an incentive for researchers to refine future studies:
- The composition of the research sample: there is a huge difference between a 10 year old, a 15 year old and an 18 year old. The first is still a child, the second a teenager, the third a young adult. Three completely different age groups, from every point of view, which prevents the representative sample from being homogenous. In general, you cannot ask the same questions to a child and a teenager, let alone submit a questionnaire on their needs for information. There should have been a distinction least among children and teenagers by sending them different questions;
- The questionnaire: some questions in the survey have little sense for a kid and are more suitable for an adult. For example, ask an adolescent, or worse a child, if they read the newspapers or watch the news: the question is too forced. It is the same issue regarding the questions about social networks: it is hard to believe that a 10 year old child is carrying a mobile phone with a personal account (it is prohibited by law), without any supervision or restrictions from parents.
Despite these drawbacks, this study still deserves mention, at the very least due to its originality. In the current scientific sphere, it is rare to find such research, with a major concern focused in the information needs of the kids.
The analysis on the issue of "fake news" among teenagers is the real strong point of this research, given how much of a hot topic it is at the moment.
In fact it has only been in recent weeks that Facebook has launched news of a crusade against information hoaxes – those bad apples that pollute social media, jeopardize its image, reputation and credibility. It is on this that Mark Zuckerberg and company are betting their future.