Young people more likely to rely on social media, though few trust it ‘a lot’: poll

Young people are more likely to turn to social media for information than older generations, though few in the younger age group said they trust social media “a lot” to provide accurate information, according to a new global survey by UNICEF and Gallup. 

Overall, 45 percent of young people ages 15 to 24 said social media is a “go-to” information source, while just 17 percent of those ages 40 and older said the same, according to the survey. The findings were based on survey responses from people in 21 countries.

The 28 percentage-point gap on social media as a source of information is the greatest gap separating the age groups among the wide-ranging questions included in the report.  

In every country surveyed, young people are at least 10 percentage points more likely than older people to use online sources for information, and in most countries the difference is 30 percentage points or more, the UNICEF report found.

While a plurality of young people listed social media as their top source of information, older generations were more likely to list television as their most popular source — 39 percent. Fewer than one in five young people, 15 percent, listed the medium as a go-to source.

Despite social media ranking high as a major source of information for young people, just 17 percent in the age cohort say they trust information on the platforms “a lot.” That’s comparable to the 12 percent of older people who said they trust social media a lot.

The majority of young people, 57 percent, said they trust social media “a little,” and 15 percent said they don’t trust it at all, based on the survey data. 

Just half of older people said they trust social media a little, and 20 percent said not at all. 

The survey also found that young people are less concerned about data privacy compared to older generations. 

On average 25 percent of young people from the 21 countries surveyed said they are very concerned that their personal information could be collected and shared when they are online. By comparison, 36 percent of older internet users said the same. 

The survey found the generational device is particularly true in high-income countries with older populations including the U.S., Germany, Japan, France and the U.K. For example in the U.S. a 32-point gap separates the generations, with about 50 percent of U.S. adults ages 40 and above saying they are very concerned about their personal information being collected online, compared to around 20 percent of young people. 

Although the majority of young people expressed concerns about risks of digital technology on children, they did so less than older adults, based on the survey.  

Seventy-nine percent of adults 40 and above said it is “very risky” for children to meet people in real life that they met online, compared to 71 percent of young people who said the same. And 88 percent of adults 40 and above said they are “very concerned” about risks associated with being sexually harassed online, compared to 83 percent of young people. 

The age cohorts are more evenly matched in regards to being very concerned about being bullied online, with 81 percent of older generations and 79 percent of young people saying so, according to the survey. 

The survey is based on interviews with more than 21,000 people. Most results presented in the report have a margin of error of 4 percentage points. People aged 25 to 39 were not surveyed as part of the report aimed at comparing the two generations.

Tags Gallup Social media UNICEF

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