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How Do You Know It’s True? Lunenburg County Teens’ Comments about Staying Informed

If you spend any amount of time around teenagers, you might wonder what exactly is occupying their time when they’re scrolling on their phones (an activity which, depending on the teenager, takes up many of their waking hours). According to my own screentime metrics, I message family and friends, scroll through CBC news, and check my work email. 

For many teenagers, their screentime metrics tell a different story. In conversations with my teen students over the past few years, some have revealed to me that they spend upwards of six hours a day on TikTok, a video-sharing app. While it’s comforting to imagine that they could be watching educational videos, often the content is meaningless and mind-numbing. Sometimes, even more alarmingly, the content is propaganda disguised as entertainment or news. Educational content does exist on TikTok, and for some teenagers, it’s an ideal way to learn. However, because any user can post content and label it “news” or “educational”, it can easily be biased, harmful, or downright incorrect. 

TikTok is far from a verified news source, and yet in a recent survey I conducted with 32 Gr. 9 students (ages 13 – 15), it is their primary news source. Approximately a third of the students wrote that they never interact with news and have no interest in it. Out of all the students surveyed, only one mentioned ever reading print news. For this generation of students, print journalism is as quaint a concept as a flip phone.  

I asked my students to briefly summarize their interactions with news on cue cards. Here are some of their thoughts. 

“I mostly get information from TikTok, which probably isn’t a good thing. Everyone should be informed, including young people and TikTok isn’t the best place to get news. Honestly I don’t have the attention span for research.” –Heulwen 

“Sometimes I hear teachers talking about the news. Other than that I don’t ever hear about it.” –Noah 

“I receive my info through YouTube. I find YouTube pretty reliable.” –Quinn 

“The way I get my news is through research. For example, if I were to hear something about what’s going on in the Congo I’d research it and use multiple news sites opposed to taking the information at face value.” – Paxton 

“I do tend to find a lot of false info from TikTok.” –Emma 

“I get a lot of my news from YouTube or TikTok. These platforms have a variety of influencers that talk about any current events happening.” – Keirnan 

“I never take a minute to find out what’s happening. I’m more concerned about what’s happening in my life. And even if I did listen to the news, I don’t have the power to do anything about it.” – Chris 

“I get my mom to tell me about everything from her Facebook. I also get a lot of my news from TikTok, mostly for sports.” – Alayah 

“I rarely watch the news but sometimes I will get intrigued by things on social media and do further research using various sites on Google (mostly New York Times).” –Gracie 

“I don’t watch news channels. I get news from the internet/social media.” – Emmett 

“I do not watch the news and rarely keep up with international events. If I do find out about news it is from the internet.” – Conrad


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