SAN FRANCISCO — Watching or reading the news leaves most American children with negative feelings, which is perhaps why only a quarter of them actually trust mass media outlets to begin with, a new survey finds.
Common Sense Media, a non-profit advocacy group, surveyed 853 kids aged 10-to-18 in January, hoping to gauge their opinions on mass media. The participants were chosen from a “nationally representative panel, as well as an oversample of African-American and Hispanic/Latino children drawn from an opt-in web panel.”
Some of the issues that researchers wanted to gain insight on included: the outlets that youths use, their trust of the media, and their general sentiments.
The survey found that 63% of children feel “afraid, angry, and/or sad or depressed” after watching or reading coverage of current events, and just 25% actually trust information from media organizations. Instead, two-thirds trust their family when it comes to getting information about current events, with nearly half of the panel saying they trust their teachers for news updates. Just 17% believe their friends when hearing them talk about the day’s headlines.
Still, despite the pessimistic outlook, children are interested in learning about current events. Nearly half of the kids surveyed (48%) said that following the news was important to them. Seventy percent expressed that consuming the news made them feel smart.
While these figures may hint at a positive perception, the overwhelming majority of kids— nearly two-thirds— believed that the media does a poor job of representing their circumstances and experiences, much less covering them. Nearly three-quarters agreed that stations should employ other kids to deliver stories about adolescents, instead of adults.
Kids also see a bias in how the media treats certain demographics; half, for example, expressed feeling that blacks and Latinos only get covered in a negative light. Only one-third of those surveyed felt as if the media treats men and women equally.
Interestingly, many kids think they can distinguish fake news from real news. Forty-four percent claim they can tell the difference, yet 31% said they’ve shared a story online that they later learned was not true.
Common Sense advocates for parents to teach their children media literacy skills, which can help in identifying the value of information from different sources.
These skills can help a child determine whether a specific story is worth sharing, worth further investigating, or worth deeming “fake news.”
The report containing these findings is titled News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News. An infographic was made available detailing many of the findings of the report.