The report, “How Youth Navigate the News Landscape,” explores youth news consumption behavior on mobile and social media. It reveals how young people are adapting to a changing media environment to access news they trust.
The report is based on findings from six exploratory focus groups with 52 teenagers and young adults in three U.S. cities: Philadelphia, Chicago, and Charlotte, North Carolina. With a focus on understanding the growing influence of mobile devices, social media, and messaging apps, the report provides insights for journalists and other organizations looking to engage younger audiences in the growing mobile news ecosystem.
“Teens and young adults are on the front lines of navigating an incredibly complex information environment,” said Mary Madden, a researcher at Data & Society and one of the authors of the report. “Long-held assumptions about the patterns and rhythms of news consumption are being upended by a generation that largely experiences journalism through mobile apps and algorithm-controlled social media platforms.”
Among the key findings:
- News is frequently encountered by accident, as young people dip into flows of news across various platforms.
- Patterns of verification and discernment in confirming trustworthy sources vary among teens and young adults.
- Certain behaviors—such as taking screenshots of news stories to share them with friends—may elude current tools to record and track traffic to news platforms.
“These findings illustrate a variety of innovative strategies that young people are using to assess the veracity of the news stories they find online,” said Amanda Lenhart, senior research scientist at the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and a co-author of the report. “Teens and young adults range widely across different news platforms, consulting multiple sources in an attempt to verify and clarify stories they encounter.”
“These findings provide news organizations with a reference point to develop new approaches to mobile news innovation and audience engagement, opening opportunities to build trust with younger audiences,” said Luz Gomez, director of research at Knight Foundation. “As journalists work to discover fresh ways to engage audiences and understand the habits of the next generation of news consumers, this report offers a detailed look into how young people conceptualize and consume news in digital spaces—and which sources they trust.”