This morning we had the usual type of question from John Humphries on Radio 4’s Flagship news programme Today. Talking about young people and how they access news and politics, the question was framed in asking what damage social media was doing to teenagers. The presumption of damage is a pervading theme in the traditional media, despite them also using social channels to attract viewers and readers.
This is a traditional stance. In the early 1900s radio and records were seen as a threat. Television was going to destroy the fabric of society in the 50s and 60s, so much that the time on air was limited. It is only later that people started to realise that television was the greatest educational tool ever invented.
So in the 2017 UK Election, the number of young people voting increased substantially. Their level of engagement with politics has increased dramatically, yet less than 5% get their news from newspapers. In the US, research shows that 50% of 18-29-year-olds get their news online. Social media has increased the engagement of young people with the world they live in, not the reverse. The internet informs people in a manner that was never before possible. Rather than getting a news story from one source, people get various angles on stories and can make up their own minds.