Young people and the fake news dilemma
Young people inform themselves about everyday topics mainly via social media, but hardly trust the information they obtain there - this is what the Austrian Safer Internet Centre’s latest study shows.
The importance of social networks as a source of information continues to grow
As this 2017 survey on fake news shows, online media and social networks are the most important source of up-to-date information on politics, sport and culture for young people in 2023, especially when compared to data and young people’s digital habits from 2017.
Social networks are in first place and are used by 80 per cent of the young people surveyed at least weekly (in 2017: 59 per cent). YouTube has seen a particularly significant increase of 75 per cent of young people, and it is used at least weekly for information on daily topics (in 2017: 27 per cent). This is followed by streaming platforms at 59 per cent, then television (54 per cent in 2023, 59 per cent in 2017) and blogs and general websites (in 2023: 48 per cent). Around four in ten young people use websites of traditional media (2023: 39 per cent, 2017: 20 per cent), Wikipedia (2023: 39 per cent, 2017: 9 per cent), as well as radio (2023: 37 per cent, 2017: 33 per cent). Podcasts are still used and enjoyed by 24 per cent of the surveyed young people. Printed daily newspapers and magazines only play a relevant role for 17 per cent of young people, which constitutes a decline of eight percentage points compared to 2017.
- Read and download the infographic Young People in the fake news dilemma in German as a PDF document and a PNG picture.
- Read and download the infographic Young people in the fake news dilemma in English as a PDF document and a PNG picture.
The most popular sources of information for young people are the least reliable
Although social networks are the most important source of information for young people, they rate them as not very credible. Only eight per cent of the respondents rate social networks as very credible (in 2017: 10 per cent). The same applies to YouTube, the second most important source of information, which is only rated as very credible by 10 per cent of the surveyed young people.
Credibility of traditional media outlets declines
The information source Wikipedia enjoys the most trust among young people, with 25 per cent of them considering it very credible (in 2017: 21 per cent). The other places in the ranking of trustworthiness are occupied by the radio (2023: 21 per cent, 2017: 32 per cent), television (2023: 20 per cent, 2017: 29 per cent), websites of traditional media (2023: 19 per cent, 2017: 23 per cent) as well as daily newspapers and magazines (2023: 12 per cent, 2027: 20 per cent). One fact is particularly striking: although young people currently still rate traditional media as more credible, they use them far less.
Influencers are more important than traditional media
Influencers are also increasingly used by young people as a daily source of news and information and are perceived by them as "modern journalists". However, most of these influencers are predominantly young people who run their own online channels, but are usually not subject to editorial quality criteria or checks. As many as 63 per cent of the respondents refer to posts by influencers for daily news.
Search engines lose importance
In the daily use, search engines are primarily used by young people for school and professional contexts. As a private source of research and information on current topics, they are only used by 48 per cent of young people. YouTube now dominates internet searches with 75 per cent, and social networks with 80 per cent.
Gut feeling is the guide to recognising fake news
49 per cent of the young people surveyed are often unsure whether information on the internet is true. Even for school purposes, however, only 64 per cent of young people check the sources of information - and only if the information seems untrustworthy to them.
Lack of knowledge to verify information
A large proportion of young people are interested in checking information. However, only 22 per cent of young people say they are aware of websites for fact-checking (such as Mimikama and Correctiv). Then, only 12 per cent of young people actually use them. 54 per cent of young people state they compare information from different sources. Half of the young people admit they forward news on current topics without checking it first; 53 per cent find checking information sources tedious. For the 56 per cent of 11- to 14-year-olds, parents are the first point of contact for questions about the trustworthiness of information on the internet. The older the young people get, the more independently they act.
Ignoring as the most important strategy in dealing with false reports
In everyday life, it shows that ignoring is the main strategy when dealing with fake news (57 per cent). 7 out of 10 young people say that it is difficult to find out whether information from the internet is true or false. A quarter of the surveyed young people directly call attention to people who spread false information. A similar number (24 per cent) use the reporting tools and options given by the platform operators. 21 per cent of young people try to warn other people of false reports with the help of comments.
More offers for young people are necessary
Saferinternet.at offers a variety of services to support young people in their dilemma of dealing with fake news. In order to make it as easy as possible to check information and report fake news, practical and low-threshold tools, as well as quick and qualitative processing by the platforms are necessary. Schools must ensure that students not only learn the competences to evaluate information theoretically, but also practice them regularly in all subjects and all school levels. Parents are required to educate their children about trustworthy sources and to continuously reflect on the truthfulness of information in everyday family life.
Artificial intelligence brings new challenges
The acquisition of information by young people and the transfer of knowledge in the education system and in the private sphere will continue to change massively due to new dialogue systems (chatbots) based on artificial intelligence, such as ChatGPT.
This year again, extensive materials are available for download for young people, parents and carers, and teachers and educators on the occasion of Safer Internet Day. In particular:
- Find more information about contact points as a PDF and DOCX document.
- Explore a list of tips for parents and carers as a PDF and DOCX document.
- Read and download tips for teachers and educators as a PDF and DOCX document.
- Discover more tips for pupils as a PDF and DOCX document.
About the study
The study "Young People and Misinformation on the Internet" was conducted by the Institute for Youth Culture Research and Cultural Mediation on behalf of the Austrian Institute for Applied Telecommunications and the ISPA - Internet Service Providers Austria within the framework of the EU initiative Saferinternet.at. During the survey period (November 2022), 400 young people aged 11 to 17, representative by age, gender and educational background, took part in the study. In addition, five focus group discussions were conducted with a total of 70 young people between the ages of 13 and 19.
The comparative study from 2017 "Rumours on the net: How do young people evaluate information from the internet?" was conducted by the Institute for Youth Culture Research and Cultural Mediation on behalf of the Austrian Institute for Applied Telecommunications and the ISPA - Internet Service Providers Austria within the framework of the EU initiative Saferinternet.at. During the survey period (November, December 2016), 400 young people aged 14 to 18, representative of age, gender and educational background, took part in the study. In addition, six in-depth individual interviews were conducted.
Find more information about the work of the Austrian Safer Internet Centre, including its awareness raising, helpline, hotline, and youth participation services – or find similar information for other Safer Internet Centres throughout Europe.
- Type: awareness, sid, youth
- Author:Austrian Safer Internet Centre