Teens turning to TikTok and Instagram for news

Jul 25, 2022 | children online, social media

More teens than ever are shunning traditional news outlets like the BBC in favour of getting their news from social media platform like TikTok and Instagram, according to new research from Ofcom.

Ofcom’s News consumption in the UK 2021/22 report shows that, for the first time, Instagram is the most popular news source among teenagers used by nearly three in ten in 2022 (29%) with TikTok and YouTube following closely behind, used by 28% of teens to get their news.

TikTok and Instagram Top for Teens news gathering
Ofcom News Consumption in 2021/22 Report

TikTok and Instagram top for views, not for trust

Despite its popularity, fewer than a third of teens (30%) actually trust TikTok’s news content. But they still prefer it for their news source to BBC One and BBC Two. These channels, historically the most popular news sources among teens, have now fallen from the top spot, to fifth place. Around a quarter of teens (24%) use these channels for news in 2022, compared to nearly half (45%) just five years ago.

TikTok users who took part in the Ofcom study also said they get more of their news from “other people they follow” (47%) on TikTok than from news organisations’ accounts (24%). Suggesting the rush by organisations such as The Washington Poss and The Guardian to open their own TikTok accounts to reach teens is not making an impact.

“Teenagers today are increasingly unlikely to pick up a newspaper or tune into TV News, instead preferring to keep up-to-date by scrolling through their social feeds.

And while youngsters find news on social media to be less reliable, they rate these services more highly for serving up a range of opinions on the day’s topical stories..”

Yih-Choung Teh, Ofcom’s Group Director for Strategy and Research

YouTube and Twitter are two social media platforms that are trusted more for news than TikTok among teens. Half of YouTube and Twitter users think they provide trustworthy news stories (51% and 52% respectively) compared to 30% for TikTok.

Misinformation is rife on TikTok and Instagram

Misinformation is rife on social media platforms like TikTok and Instagram. A recent investigation by anti-misinformation outlet NewsGuard found that a new TikTok account can be shown falsehoods about the Ukraine war within minutes of signing up to the app.

Teens turning to TikTok and Instagram for new

And health and medical misinformation is a particular problem on TikTok with a new wave of influencers now springing up on the platform trying to address some of the more harmful medical myths that have gone viral.

News from Mum and Dad is still top for teens

A glimmer of hope amongst any concern about the quality of news teens may be getting online, may lay in one finding from Ofcom’s research: the biggest source of news for teens isn’t Instagram but is ‘talking with family’ (65%). Giving parents still a very good chance of countering misinformation and directing teens towards reputable news sources at home.

My Brain Has Too Many Tabs Open by Tanya Goodin

For more about how the digital world is changing our behaviour and how we get our news – pick up a copy of my new book.