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News Literacy: Gen Z Kids Value News Media, But Feel Misrepresented and Neglected by Coverage

two little boys reading on newspapers or digital devicesKids See Racial & Gender Bias in Reporting, Are Skeptical About Media Overall

Although Generation Z kids value the news media and feel smarter when they’re informed, they also feel the media doesn’t cover what’s important to them, and they feel misrepresented when they’re covered, according to new research from child advocacy nonprofit Common Sense Media. The report finds that kids are often fooled by fake news, and they think there is gender and racial bias in news coverage.

The study, News and America’s Kids: How Young People Perceive and Are Impacted by the News, is based on a nationally representative survey of 10-18-year-olds about their engagement with the news, including where they get their news, their level of trust in various sources, and the impact news has on their lives.

“The more we know about how kids get news and how the news makes them feel, the more effective we can be in helping them navigate this new, very tumultuous media landscape,” said James Steyer, founder and CEO of Common Sense, in a news release. “We need the next generation to be engaged citizens, and consumption of information is a big part of that. We all have a responsibility—parents, educators, media companies and policymakers—to listen to what kids have to say and to take actions that will improve the way they consume news and information in the future.”

Key findings include:

  • Kids value the news. Most access it and care about it, and overall they feel smarter when they’re informed. Forty-eight percent say that following the news is important to them; seventy percent say consuming news makes them feel smart and knowledgeable; and half feel that following the news helps them feel prepared to make a difference.
  • Kids feel neglected and misrepresented. They don’t feel like the media covers what’s important to them, and they feel misrepresented when they’re covered. Seventy-four percent think that the media should show more people their age, rather than grown-ups talking about them; sixty-nine percent say that the news media has no idea about the experiences of people their age, and only 42 percent think the news covers issues that matter to them.
  • Kids see racial and gender bias in the news. Half of kids say when they see nonwhite kids in the news, it’s negative and/or related to crime and violence. Children also recognize gender bias, and only 34 percent agree that the news treats women and men equally fairly.
  • What kids are seeing scares them and makes them feel depressed. Sixty-three percent of kids find content to be disturbing, causing them to feel afraid, angry, and/or depressed.
  • Kids are fooled by fake news. This may be why many are extremely skeptical and distrustful of the news media. Only 44 percent agree that they can tell fake news stories from real ones. And, of those who have shared a news story online in the last six months, 31 percent say they shared a story that they later found out was wrong or inaccurate. This could be why only 25 percent put “a lot” of trust in the information they receive from news organizations.
  • Kids trust their families and teachers for news more than any source, but they preferto get it from social media. Sixty-six percent say they trust the news they hear from family “a lot,” with teachers being the second-most-trusted source (48 percent). However, when asked to select their preferred news source, 39 percent of children picked online news sources—more than those who selected family, teachers, and friends (36 percent) and well above those who selected traditional media (24 percent).

“Kids trust the adults in their lives more than the news media, but they still turn to social media for information, which is why we need to help them filter out misinformation and understand where the news is coming from,” said Jessica Lindl, GM at Common Sense Education, in the release. “Critical-thinking skills help kids evaluate information effectively and build their confidence, which is what is necessary for them to continue to want to be informed. Given our around-the-clock news media environment, news- and digital-literacy skills are more necessary than ever for children to thrive, and Common Sense is dedicated to supporting educators and parents by providing them with the tools and resources they need.”

Common Sense Education’s Digital Citizenship Curriculum, which provides educators with lesson plans on subjects including news literacy and cyberbullying, is currently being used in more than 100,000 schools.

This report is based on an online survey that was conducted from January 10 to January 22, 2017, among a national sample of 853 children age 10–18.

Source: PR Newswire; edited by Richard Carufel

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