UK teenagers get their news from Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Teenagers using smartphone apps

Teenagers in the UK are snubbing traditional news outlets in favour of social media apps, according to Ofcom, while TikTok is the fastest growing news source for adults in the UK. May God have mercy on us all.

Ofcom has today put out a report looking at news consumption in the UK between 2021 and 2022, and the results are not good for the traditional news media, or anyone interested in the long-term health of civilisation. For the first time, Instagram has clocked in as the most popular news source amongst teenagers, used by 29% of them. Which is curious not least because the app isn’t really set up to deliver news so much as videos of gym flexes and artisan sandwiches.

In joint second and third place are TikTok and YouTube, which 28% of youths use to follow news. Five years ago 45% of them used BBC One and BBC Two for news, however this year that’s down to 24% putting them behind the big three social media apps. However the more long in the tooth social media platform Facebook is on the decline as a news source for teenagers – back in 2018 34% used it for information and now that’s down to 22%.

It’s not just in the kids demographic that TikTok is gaining in traction – the micro-video app has seen the largest increase in use of any news source in the last two years – from 0.8 million UK adults in 2020 to 3.9 million UK adults in 2022, which puts it on level pegging with Sky News’ website and app.

News viewing to BBC One, BBC Two, BBC News Channel, ITV and Sky News has dropped to below pre-pandemic levels, which tracks with a longer-term decline in traditional TV news viewing.  BBC One however does remain the most used news source among adults, although it apparently reached fewer people in 2022. While it may have dropped proportionately, TV news is apparently still the most trusted news source among UK adults, while news on social media was considered the least reliable.

‘The death of print’ is a term that’s been thrown around for well over a decade, though the report does seem to present evidence its decline is in acceleration. The combined use of print and online newspapers among adults is now 38%, down from 47% in 2020 and 51% in 2018.

How significant is it that teenagers and adults are increasingly turning to social media to get their information about the world? It depends who you ask; some will see apps like Instagram as efficient delivery mechanisms for bitesize chunks of news, while others will see them as a rot in the pursuit of keeping people informed, which furthermore is open to dangerous forms of manipulation with consequences we perhaps can’t yet fathom.

Either way, unless everyone decides they want to start buying newspapers again tomorrow, the drift towards new media for news dissemination especially amongst the younger generations seems inevitable according to reports such as this.


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One comment

  1. Avatar Rebecca 21/07/2022 @ 2:20 pm

    But which proportion of these people are getting their news from traditional news outlets via social media? It’s the same source, just a different medium. All in all, possibly only half as dramatic as the author is implying.

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