Today’s teenagers are turning away from traditional media organizations and are getting their news from social media sites and YouTube, according to a new poll by Common Sense and SurveyMonkey.

More than half of teenagers say they get news at least a few times a week from social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Half say they get their news from YouTube.

Six in 10 teens say they are most likely to get their news from celebrities, social media influencers, and social media personalities rather than from news organizations using the same platform.

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Even with so many relying on alternative sources for the majority of their news, teens are more confident in the news they get directly from news organizations. Of teens who get news of current events from news organizations, 65 percent say it helps them better understand what is going on. In contrast, just 53 percent of teens who get news from social media say it helps them better understand what is going on, while 19 percent say it has made them more confused about current events.

“While it’s notable that teens rely heavily on platforms such as Facebook and YouTube to stay informed, their reliance on news from celebrities and influencers rather than journalists may have pernicious implications,” says Jon Cohen, chief research officer at SurveyMonkey. “It’s a bit of a paradox: Overwhelmingly teens say they are interested in keeping up with the news, but they’re not seeking out either traditional or new media to do so.”

Amid ongoing concerns about the impact of information disseminated through social media on elections, older teens’ news habits may have political implications. Of the teens age 16 and 17 who say they’ll be eligible to vote in the 2020 election, 85 percent are likely to cast a ballot, including 61 percent who say they’re “very likely.”

“These findings raise concerns about what kind of news the next generation is using to shape their decisions,” says James Steyer, CEO of Common Sense. “There are few standards for what constitutes news and how accurately it’s portrayed on the platforms teens use. With the 2020 election coming up, we need to make sure teens are getting their news from reliable sources, thinking critically, and making informed decisions.”

Here are 7 key findings about teens’ news consumption:

1. A large majority of teens age 13 to 17 in the U.S. (78 percent) say it’s important to them to follow current events.

2. Teens get their news more frequently from social media sites (e.g., Facebook and Twitter) or from YouTube than directly from news organizations. More than half of teens (54 percent) get news from social media, and 50 percent get news from YouTube at least a few times a week. Fewer than half, 41 percent, get news reported by news organizations in print or online at least a few times a week, and only 37 percent get news on TV at least a few times a week.

3. YouTube recommendations drive news consumption. Among all teens who get their news from YouTube—regardless of how often—exactly half (50 percent) say they most often find news on YouTube because it was recommended by YouTube itself (i.e., as a “watch next” video or in the sidebar). Almost half as many (27 percent) say they follow or subscribe to a specific channel for news on YouTube, and fewer say they find their news on YouTube through search (10 percent) or because it was shared by someone they know in real life (7 percent).

4. Sixty percent of teens who get news from YouTube say they are more likely to get it from celebrities, influencers, and personalities as compared to news organizations (39 percent). The difference is even more apparent among daily YouTube news consumers (71 percent vs. 28 percent).

5. Nearly two in three teens (65 percent) who get news directly from news organizations say doing so has helped them better understand current events, compared with 59 percent of teens who get their news from YouTube (56 percent) and 53 percent who get their news from social media sites (53 percent). Nearly two in 10 teens (19 percent) say that getting news from social media has made them more confused about current events.

6. Teens clearly prefer a visual medium for learning about the news. A majority (64 percent) say that “seeing pictures and video 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.

7. Politically, teens are more likely to be moderate and identify as Democrats, but they are open to ideas from sources whose opinions differ from their own. Just under half of teens (45 percent) say they get news from sources that have views different from their own once a week or more, and only 14 percent say they never get news from sources with different views. Slightly fewer (35 percent) say they discuss political issues with people who have different views once a week or more, and 19 percent say they never discuss politics with people who have opposing views.

About the Author:

Laura Ascione

Laura Ascione is the Managing Editor, Content Services at eSchool Media. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland's prestigious Philip Merrill College of Journalism. When she isn't wrangling her two children, Laura enjoys running, photography, home improvement, and rooting for the Terps. Find Laura on Twitter: @eSN_Laura

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