Does News Affect Teens?

OXFORD OHIO — Being a teenager is one of the weirdest ages people go through – you’re treated like a child, but expected to act like and adult. You gain some rights, such as driving and in a few more years voting, but still lack others, such as drinking. And when you lack some of those rights, especially voting, is it worth paying attention to news? How does it really affect these people in our society?

In many ways, it does not. National news, like what new laws are being passed, or who the cabinet members are, does not affect teens themselves. Talking about immigration laws? It is unlikely that it actually would affect most teens.  But studies do show that teens think news is important. According to Common Sense Media, 48% of teens say news is important to them.

But in some ways, it does. When teens turn 18, they are able to vote. Knowing the positions and issues is important. And even before that, laws and news about weather, driving, and major national events can affect teens and their lives. A law about when a teenager can get a license could have an impact on what classes they take and where they take them. City and local laws about the school can affect teens day to day lives. Even state laws deal with education fairly frequently, and all public schools get money for the state, which can directly impact teen’s futures. All of the above would be covered by the news.

So what do teens know? Well, depending on who it is, the answers vary. Some know every last detail — and some might not know anything. Many teens are caught up on celebrity news and gossip, but know nothing about the global or national events. As one Talawanda High School Sophomore puts it: “I know if a truly big event is happening, but I don’t pay attention day-to-day.”

To look closer at if teens know news, I asked my Journalism class and my Honors Algebra II class if they knew about large state, national and global news events. The questions were as follows:

Do you know the name of the Hurricane that hit the eastern United States?

Journalism : 100%

Algebra: 85%

Do you know the name of the typhoon that hit the Philippines?

Journalism: 23%

Algebra: 0%



Can you name two (any two) candidates for governor in Ohio?

Journalism: 7%

Algebra: 0%



Do you know Brett Kavanaugh, and the office he is in the process of being confirmed for?

Journalism: 23%

Algebra: 15%



It can be a vicious cycle; when you don’t know much about news, it can be hard to start. As one high school student interviewed by The New York Times puts it, “It was disheartening and even overwhelming to ever start.” So if you don’t pay attention to news and want to get involved, suddenly it’s a whirlwind of names a positions, departments and trade agreements. To get started you need background information — information you don’t get if you don’t read the news.

So why don’t more kids pay attention? One reason may be that teens feel misrepresented by the media. According to common sense, 74% of teens think the media should show people their own age, instead of adults talking about them. So maybe, teens just feel misrepresented.

Cover photo cred:  Camry W-N