Young People And Their News Habits
By Therese Whelan
In this age of easy technology where young people spend about six hours a day consuming media, it seems that teens have ample opportunity to stay informed on news. However, according to a study by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, teenagers and young adults are not regularly following the news.
“I like being naïve,” says Shana Whelan, 17. She says she doesn’t pay attention to the news on a daily basis, because with her busy life it’s “easy to forget about it.” Like Shana, most teens and young adults do not find time to follow the news regularly. The study titled, “Young People and News,” found that only 16 percent of people studied aged 18-30 said they read the news daily, and half of all teens and young adults said they rarely, if ever read a newspaper. This is compared to the 35 percent of adults over age 30 who read the paper daily.
Unlike their parent’s generation, young people who do follow the news lack a routine. The majority prefers to receive their news from the television or radio, rather than in print or online. But this seems to be a less focused method than the traditional reading of a paper. According to the study, 81 percent of teens only listen to radio news if it comes on while listening to something else. And 60 percent of young adults only watch a portion of the national TV newscasts before switching to another channel.
When Colleen McGowan, age 50, was growing up she remembers the daily paper arriving every morning. There was one television in the house, and her parents watched the news every night. She says that now she mostly sticks to newspapers, because she doesn’t “like to have the images” of war in her head. Today, many households have multiple TVs and young people are free to make their own viewing selections, and news is not their first choice. The long war in Iraq seems to be far away from most young people’s thoughts, though it is a daily topic in the news.
Some teens find they are not very interested in things that don’t directly affect them. Whelan says she and her friends don’t pay to much attention to things that don’t “involve us,” but she expects when she is older she will have a greater interest in the news. She predicts that soon, most news will be watched on cell phones and computers. “I think it would be much easier to watch a five minute clip on 10 different topics,” said Whelan.
It is uncertain what changes the newspaper industry will have to make to attract young people who want abbreviated news. Teens today are used to being able to make selections about what music they want to hear, shows they want to watch and what they want to read. Will it take a glossy magazine like newspaper full of pictures to attract their attention? Today, big news can travel faster than ever, but the key is making young people care enough that they want to be informed.