Apetail Years 2020 study now released

Apetail Years is a study of media ownership and use by children between the age of 6 and 12, and young people aged 12-18 in Flanders, conducted by Mediaraven, Mediawijs and imec-MICT-UGent every two years. Belgian awareness centre Child Focus was also involved. The results for Wallonia will be published at the end of 2020. These results provide interesting insight into how young people deal with the news, current events and societal debate.

2020-08-20 Belgian Safer Internet Centre awareness, research, youth

How do children and young people come into contact with the news?

Children and young people come into contact with news and information in many different ways, often offline through parents, friends and lessons, but also through social media, messaging apps, forums, the television, the radio, or on specific websites.

Concerning the most used news channels, the Apetail Years 2020 study shows that social media (and more generally, smartphones) is by far the main way young people catch up with the news. When we observe news consumption over a longer period of time (weekly), 75.9 per cent of young people consume news through social media, while 54.5 per cent on television, 52.9 per cent through the radio, 49.2 per cent used messaging apps, and 26.4 % of them consulted news websites.

Despite the high figures for news consumption on social media, we see a large percentage of young people who indicate that they rarely or never read news in the newspapers (66.6 per cent), on news apps from news organisations (67.4 per cent), in emails (70.4 per cent), personalised news applications (72.2 per cent), magazines (73.6 per cent) or alternative news websites (75.7 per cent).

Logo of "Apetail Years - Young people and digital media"

© Apestaartjaren 2020

What about their news skills and confidence?

In general, young people have a reasonable confidence in the news coverage of journalists. For various indicators that reflect confidence in news reporting (balanced, objective, complete) on a scale of 1 to 5, young people awarded an average of 3. Three quarters of young people (76.9 per cent) did not use a paid subscription or app for digital news in the past year. Those who do use a paid subscription (19.8 per cent) do so mainly through their parents' subscription.

When we look at their motivation and news skills, we see that a minority of young people think the news are rather important, only about 30 per cent of young people think there are enough news made to their measure, but there may be too much news in general. A majority of young people trust that they can understand the news, but most doubt whether they can rate their quality and recognise fake news, or even think they cannot.

Participate in societal discussions online

It is interesting to see how young people deal with current social discussions online on topics such as politics and elections, migration and refugees, ecology and energy, poverty, gender and sexuality. Due to declining Facebook usage among young people, we have to distinguish between Facebook users and non-users.

Among the active young Facebook users:

  • almost a fourth of young people regularly read a post on social issues;
  • three quarters of young people sometimes read an online post, a news article or a comment on current topics.

When young people want to express their support for a social theme, indicating "present" at a Facebook event is the most popular way to do so:

  • 15 per cent of the young people said they do this regularly;
  • 43 per cent did it at least once in the past six months;
  • 58 per cent have never been present at such events.

A quarter of the young people have been members of a Facebook group on current social topics (25 per cent) or signed a petition that they saw on Facebook (23 per cent).

  • 12 per cent of young people have frequently posted or shared something;
  • 8 per cent commented in a publicly visible manner on Facebook;
  • 10 per cent post, comment or like a message in a Facebook group about those topics;
  • 14 per cent communicate about this regularly via private messages;
  • 6 per cent admit to trolling on social issues;
  • 69 per cent never trolled in the past six months.

Of the young people who do not use Facebook:

  • 50 per cent have shared or even posted something public;
  • 45 per cent have liked something;
  • 40 per cent have posted something in a closed group or forum;
  • 35 per cent have responded at least once;
  • 13 per cent watched videos regularly;
  • 13 per cent post or regularly share something public;
  • 10 per cent often or very often read posts, news articles and comments on current topics;
  • 9 per cent post or even regularly share something in closed groups;
  • 7 per cent frequently check profiles of political or public figures.

The Apetail Years 2020 study concludes with the following observations:

  • Young people in secondary education are not very interested in the news, most of all in sports and crime news.
  • They think it is not really important and that there are too many news, but not enough for them.
  • They think that they can understand the news quite well, but that they cannot rate its quality and reliability.
  • Although they think that journalists do their job well, they get their news mainly through social media.

Find out more information about the work of the Belgian Safer Internet Centre (SIC) generally, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline and youth participation services, or find similar information for Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.

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