Even on social media, it is still largely only possible to fool some of the people all of the time – but unfortunately, as more people continue to utilize the platforms as their primary source of news, that could change for the worse.
A new study conducted earlier this month by BBC Education found that nearly half of young people aged between 11 and 16 tend to believe the news they see on social media – often regardless of the source. Similar to the trends seen in America for many years, the UK’s trend is similar to that in the United States. People of all ages trust nearly everything a friend or relative shares with them.
Gallup’s last-year survey found that young people receive more of their news through social media. Although many doubt the credibility of the information they are reading, many people accept it as fact.
Sam O’Brien (chief marketing officer for Affise), stated that “considering the fact that people born between 2005 and 2010 have never lived in a world without the internet and its dominant culture,”
One factor said O’Brien was that social media influencers can often be of the same age of many of the platforms’ users – and as a result the young audiences are more inclined to believe and trust those opinions.
O’Brien said that while some outlets on social media will credit trustworthy news websites for their information, many others could share unreliable and misleading sources. This may lead to young people believing that fictitious news and stories are true. According to the BBC Education survey, social media was found to be more popular than traditional news outlets such as television, radio and news websites. Parents are also a common source of information.
One problem with this is the fact that social media content can easily be misinterpreted and biased. Already, disinformation has been spread quickly on these platforms.
“It’s concerning to see so many people, both children and adults, rely on social media for their news sources. While modern media can take many forms and use many platforms, I am aware that not all viewers and readers are able to distinguish between certain types of news feeds and information. Professor Roy Gutterman is the director of Tully Center for Free Speech at Syracuse University and an associate professor of communication at Newhouse School of Public Communication.
Does It Even Make the News?
It is easy with social media to filter information and limit the amount of news that you receive. This means that a lot of the real “news” could have been lost. Worse, news is no longer what it seems in this age of misinformation.
Gutterman said that modern media allows people to personalize their news feeds according to their beliefs and interests. However, it also makes it possible for them to differentiate between fake news or misleading information. Although news literacy is vital, schools are unlikely to fully understand it. News is also so politicized these days that people won’t believe what they read.
As with TV, video games and other content in our digital age, it could be left to parents to ensure that they monitor what their children are seeing – and even posting.
This shows that the adults are out of the room. Our job is to aid 16-year olds in discerning what online is credible and trustworthy.
“For example, when news of Roe’s reversal broke, I told my three kids – ages 11, 13, 14 – what the facts were (simplified and age appropriate, of course), and told them they would probably see people talking about it on social channels,” added Bonebright. I wanted my children to be able to understand the facts, before they saw a TikTokker expounding emotion and propaganda. They should also have tools to aid in the chaos of information overload.
What Will the Platforms do?
Social media platforms have shown they are unable stop misinformation flowing to the masses. There is no reason to believe that they would be able prevent such information from reaching young minds. For these reasons it might be more critical to educate the public. It is notTo believe all that’s on the Internet.
Gutterman suggests that platforms could block certain types of bot-generated content if the content was not authentic. Gutterman suggested that social media platforms should not be encouraging users to trust sources.
Facebook’s spotlight last year suggests it may have been in their best interest to allow the content flow. Social media can create an environment where everyone is able to fool you all the time.
Gutterman suggested that social media platforms might be incentivised to avoid this area because of the economic incentives they receive from clicking on their content.