College students turn to their peers and online versions of trusted newspapers for news at least twice as often as they do to print publications, TV, or podcasts. Those who get their news on social media turn to Facebook, Snapchat and YouTube more often than Twitter. And nine out of ten college students get their news from at least five different sources in a given week.
With so many different ways to get news, students face a constant surge that makes it difficult for them to distinguish between what’s real and what’s fake, and in some cases, to trust any news at all, according to a new report from one of the largest and most comprehensive studies of youth media engagement.
“Young people have different ways of consuming news than people born even a decade before them,” said John Wihbey, a Northeastern professor and one of the researchers who conducted the study. “Our report suggests that in some ways, we have created for young people an extremely difficult environment of news. We need to figure out ways to guide them so they can navigate it.”
Much of the work comes down to education, including teaching students both from an earlier age and more frequently throughout their school careers how to evaluate news, according to the researchers. They also encouraged journalists to embrace new storytelling techniques and add context to the news they push out, and called on social media companies to help users discern real news from “fake news.”
“Students are feeling at-sea about how to navigate the news today. The rebirth of a more in-depth and truth-seeking habit among students would be immensely helpful for our society and our democracy,” said Dan Cohen, Dean of Libraries at Northeastern, and another of the researchers on the study.