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oday's 15- to 24-year-olds count on social media and other digital sources to stay informed, but this doesn't mean they trust the information they get from them, a new UNICEF-Gallup study suggests.

Across the mix of 21 low-, middle- and high-income countries surveyed in 2021 for UNICEF's Changing Childhood Project, young people report most often using social media or online news sites to stay informed about current events. A median of 45% of 15- to 24-year-olds say they most often use social media, and another 14% rely most on online news sites.

This stands in sharp contrast with older generations in these countries, who instead are more likely to turn to television to stay up to date on current events. Those aged 40 and older in general are more likely than young people to rely on traditional media such as radio and newspapers.

These findings come from the Changing Childhood Project, the first international survey to ask different generations for their views on the world and what it is like to be a child today. Between January and June 2021, Gallup conducted the survey for UNICEF, ultimately reaching more than 21,000 people aged 15 to 24 and 40 and older in 21 countries. These countries spanned Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

Young People Trust Doctors Most, Social Media Least for Accurate Information

Of all the institutions they are asked about, young people trust doctors and healthcare workers most to provide them with accurate information, with scientists not far behind: A median of 61% trust doctors and healthcare workers a lot, and 56% trust scientists this much.

On average, less than half (45%) say they trust family and friends a lot for accurate information, while at least one in three 15- to 24-year-olds place this much faith in other institutions, such as international media and national media.

Although young people rely on social media and online sites to keep them informed about current events, of all the institutions they are asked about, young people are the least likely to trust social media platforms a lot to provide them with accurate information.

A median of 17% of young adults say they trust social media platforms this much, which means that young people are twice as likely to place a lot of trust in the accuracy of national (37%) and international media (36%) as they are social media platforms.

Young People Are More Trusting Than Older People in Most Institutions

Apart from the police, religious organizations, and family and friends, young people are more likely than older adults to place a lot of trust in all other institutions. Young people's higher trust in the national government may sound surprising, but it is fully in line with what Gallup has observed in its 15-year trend in people's confidence in their national government.

Both young and older people are least likely to place a lot of trust in social media to provide accurate information. This skepticism is present among young people regardless of whether they rely on social media for their information, while older individuals who rely on social media are more likely to say they trust it a lot.

Implications

Today's 15- to 24-year-olds are growing up in a connected world. For them, the internet has always existed—and for the youngest among them, so has social media. And in the current climate of misinformation and disinformation, it is getting increasingly difficult for people of any age to separate fact from fiction in what they see, read and hear.

Because information—real or fake—shapes the decisions young people make about their lives, it is vital to understand which media sources they are using to stay informed and which institutions they trust most to provide accurate information and to keep them safe.


Text, letterDescription automatically generated

Copyright © 2021 Gallup.

About
Julie Ray
:
Julie Ray is a writer and managing editor for World News at Gallup.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.

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Young People Rely on Social Media, But Don't Trust It

Photo by Juan Carlos via Unsplash.

November 29, 2021

A new UNICEF study of 21 countries shows that on average, 45% of 15- to 24-year-olds say they most often use social media to keep informed about current events, but only 17% consider it to be trustworthy, writes Gallup World News Managing Editor Julie Ray.

T

oday's 15- to 24-year-olds count on social media and other digital sources to stay informed, but this doesn't mean they trust the information they get from them, a new UNICEF-Gallup study suggests.

Across the mix of 21 low-, middle- and high-income countries surveyed in 2021 for UNICEF's Changing Childhood Project, young people report most often using social media or online news sites to stay informed about current events. A median of 45% of 15- to 24-year-olds say they most often use social media, and another 14% rely most on online news sites.

This stands in sharp contrast with older generations in these countries, who instead are more likely to turn to television to stay up to date on current events. Those aged 40 and older in general are more likely than young people to rely on traditional media such as radio and newspapers.

These findings come from the Changing Childhood Project, the first international survey to ask different generations for their views on the world and what it is like to be a child today. Between January and June 2021, Gallup conducted the survey for UNICEF, ultimately reaching more than 21,000 people aged 15 to 24 and 40 and older in 21 countries. These countries spanned Africa, Asia, Europe, and North and South America.

Young People Trust Doctors Most, Social Media Least for Accurate Information

Of all the institutions they are asked about, young people trust doctors and healthcare workers most to provide them with accurate information, with scientists not far behind: A median of 61% trust doctors and healthcare workers a lot, and 56% trust scientists this much.

On average, less than half (45%) say they trust family and friends a lot for accurate information, while at least one in three 15- to 24-year-olds place this much faith in other institutions, such as international media and national media.

Although young people rely on social media and online sites to keep them informed about current events, of all the institutions they are asked about, young people are the least likely to trust social media platforms a lot to provide them with accurate information.

A median of 17% of young adults say they trust social media platforms this much, which means that young people are twice as likely to place a lot of trust in the accuracy of national (37%) and international media (36%) as they are social media platforms.

Young People Are More Trusting Than Older People in Most Institutions

Apart from the police, religious organizations, and family and friends, young people are more likely than older adults to place a lot of trust in all other institutions. Young people's higher trust in the national government may sound surprising, but it is fully in line with what Gallup has observed in its 15-year trend in people's confidence in their national government.

Both young and older people are least likely to place a lot of trust in social media to provide accurate information. This skepticism is present among young people regardless of whether they rely on social media for their information, while older individuals who rely on social media are more likely to say they trust it a lot.

Implications

Today's 15- to 24-year-olds are growing up in a connected world. For them, the internet has always existed—and for the youngest among them, so has social media. And in the current climate of misinformation and disinformation, it is getting increasingly difficult for people of any age to separate fact from fiction in what they see, read and hear.

Because information—real or fake—shapes the decisions young people make about their lives, it is vital to understand which media sources they are using to stay informed and which institutions they trust most to provide accurate information and to keep them safe.


Text, letterDescription automatically generated

Copyright © 2021 Gallup.

About
Julie Ray
:
Julie Ray is a writer and managing editor for World News at Gallup.
The views presented in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily represent the views of any other organization.