TikTok most popular source for news among teens, according to Ofcom

A new report has found that TikTok is the favoured single news source among 12-15-year-olds. Credit: AP

TikTok is the most used single source of news across all platforms for teenagers in the UK, Ofcom research has found.

The regulator’s News Consumption In The UK 2022/23 report found TikTok is the favoured single news source among 12 to 15-year-olds.

TikTok is most popular with young people and used by 28% of teenagers, followed by YouTube and Instagram, both at 25%, according to the figures.

But, taking into account all news content across its platforms, the BBC still has the highest reach of any news organisation among this age group – used by 39% of teenagers.

It comes after the UK government banned ministers from using TikTok, which is a Chinese-owned video-sharing app, on their work phones following a security review.

The House of Commons and the Lords also cited security concerns as they decided to ban the app across the Palace of Westminster.

Rishi Sunak said it is 'Perfectly normal' to ban TikTok on government phones due to security risk. Credit: PA

TikTok, owned by Chinese internet company ByteDance, argues it does not share data with China.

However, Beijing’s intelligence legislation requires firms to help the Communist Party when requested.

Nic Newman, senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said there is a big shift taking place in terms of how people consume news and that more publishers have been joining TikTok.

He said: “TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram, the people younger people are listening to tend to be influencers, personalities, they film for a range of reasons – in some instances you have specific news creators, in other cases it’s just personalities, comedians, talking about issues including free school meals.

“In terms of the implications for the industry, one of the things we’ve really seen in the last 12 months is we have publishers who are very reluctant to go into TikTok, but over the last 12 months we’ve seen most major publishers refocus their strategy, partly as otherwise there’s more risk of young people seeing unreliable news.

“That’s more challenging as there’s no business model for TikTok, so it’s very hard.

“It’s just starting to build relationships with young people.

“There’s been surveys that show TikTok is amongst the least trusted platforms, partly as it’s one of the newest.”

When considering perceptions of trust, teenagers rated traditional sources better than their online counterparts, as BBC One/Two was trusted by 82% of its teenage users, compared to TikTok at 32%, Instagram at 38%, Facebook at 41% and Snapchat at 31%.

Twitter was the exception, with a 50% rating on trust, Ofcom found.

The news topics of most interest to younger teens generally are “sports or sports personalities” (23%), “music news or singers” (15%), “celebrities or famous people” (11%), “serious things going on in the UK” (8%) and news about “animals or the environment” (9%).

Meanwhile, those aged 16-24 are much less likely than the average adult to access news from traditional media sources, such as TV (47% vs 70%), radio (25% vs 40%) and print newspapers (16% vs 26%).

Social media platforms dominate the top five most popular news sources among 16-24s.

Instagram is the most-used single news source at 44%, followed by Facebook at 33%, Twitter at 31%, and TikTok at 29%.

TV channels used by TV news audiences. Credit: Ofcom

Coming in joint second, BBC One at 33% is the only traditional media source to feature in the top five.

But Ofcom said its figures show broadcast TV news maintains its position as the most popular source among adults in the UK, used by 70%, which rises to 75% when broadcast video on-demand news content is included.

BBC One remains the most-used news single source across all platforms at 49%, followed by ITV at 34% – although both channels have seen gradual declines over the past five years as they are down from 62% and 41% respectively.

Similarly, Facebook – the third most popular news source among adults – is showing signs of decline, from 33% to 30% over the same period.

TikTok’s popularity as a source of news for adults is growing, with one in 10 adults saying they use it to keep up with the latest stories – overtaking BBC Radio 1 and Channel 5, both at 8% for the first time.

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