Good Digital Parenting
Blog | June 26, 2018

How Are 'Millennials' Using Social Media For News?

Intern, Family Online Safety Institute

Are the young people in your life disconnected from the world around them because their eyes seem to be glued to the screens of their mobile devices? Surprisingly, these screens might be giving Millennials a nuanced advantage in staying up-to-date on breaking news and current events. Millennials, specifically those between the ages of 18 and 24, are increasingly using digital outlets as their main source of news. According to the American Press Institute, adults aged 18 - 34 spend more time on mobile devices as they scroll through social networks. News is woven into the way this age group connects to the world.

Instead of reading through long articles on websites, watching televised news, or investing in print, many Millennials are first seeking out quick synopses of major stories, often times accessible through just a few taps on their favorite social media apps. Below is a guide of exactly what you need to know about the ways Millennials find news in 2018:

Facebook

According to Pew Research Center, of the total 68 percent of Americans who use Facebook in general, 44 percent receive their news from the social networking site. This makes Facebook the most common source for Millennials to find news, specifically regarding government and politics. With nine out of ten Millennials using Facebook in general, the site’s sheer size is conducive to spreading ‘viral’ content quickly. Those who consume news through Facebook may prefer it due to the differing perspectives and viewpoints offered by its 1.45 billion daily users. However, since 2016, Facebook has seen a small decline in global news consumption as apps like Instagram, WhatsApp, and Snapchat have attracted new audiences.

Instagram

Instagram’s unique features like its “explore” page and its post-sharing capability enable the platform to facilitate quick content sharing, making the site especially popular among people ages 18 to 34. Buzzfeed News receives the most engagement on Instagram of any news publisher, due to its primarily lighthearted, human interest stories covering pop culture and U.S. politics. Millennials enjoy Instagram’s personalized sources of news where they can pick and choose exactly who they want to follow. And, the platform’s publishers keep this generation engaged by switching up the format of their content on the site.

WhatsApp

More than half of Millennials are members of WhatsApp, a free messenger app for smartphones that uses the internet to send texts, images, audio and video. This app also incorporates several services that are conducive to keeping up with the news. Users can stay up-to-date by registering to receive political alerts or local news coverage sent to their phones via WhatsApp messages. BBC News even uses the app, allowing users on the scene of major news stories to send them audio, text messages, and images directly. This personalized communication makes WhatsApp a popular source for news around the world.

Snapchat

Snapchat features personalized subscriptions and short-lived content that attract 187 million daily users and specifically enthrall younger audiences. In fact, 53 percent of Millennials say they check Snapchat daily. Snapchat’s Discovery Portal enables users to subscribe to individual publishers, like the Washington Post or E! News. One example, NBC News’ hit program on Snapchat titled ‘Stay Tuned’, typically reaches an audience of more than 25 million unique monthly viewers, with 75 percent of this population being under 25 years of age. ‘Stay Tuned’ has even been billed as Snapchat’s first daily show, as its short newscast only lasts two to three minutes. This sort of coverage remains relevant in reaching Millennials who are looking for information and entertainment from non-traditional sources.

Twitter

The popularity of using Twitter for everyday news rose in 2017. Almost half of Twitter users are aged 18 to 24, as the platform provides Millennials with the unique experience of following individual journalists, writers, and commentators. This seemingly ‘personal’ connection enables celebrities and politicians to get their messages directly to their audiences, without taking time to first contact the press with prepared statements. Twitter’s “ever-flowing feed of real-time information” enables breaking news to pass through its microblogging service quickly as users find reactions, commentary, and links to full articles describing current events as they happen.

What can I do to ensure I am receiving credible information?

Ultimately, the landscape of news is changing as publishers work to keep Millennials engaged. This generation’s use of social media highlights the transition of these platforms beyond enabling users to connect with family and friends, into the prospect of sharing breaking news and customized content.

While social media has created a new process to facilitate this sort of information sharing, it is important for users to remember to analyze its credibility. Traditional sources, like newspapers, employ editors who fact check information before it is sent to the public. However, social media platforms enable users to Tweet, snap and post information (that may not be verified) instantly. While sources like E! News can provide details on the latest fashion trends and pop culture moments, they may not be the best authority for reliable, honest information in every case. Try to keep this in mind before you hit the share button next time!