Youth who prefer social media for news less informed of current affairs: Survey

A survey by a team of Singapore Polytechnic students, comprising (from left) Nur Khairiyah, Tracey Ang, Muhammad Farhan, Melissa Anne Lim and Sammi Poo, showed that those who preferred social media as their choice of Internet platform for news achieved an average score of 47.6 per cent in a current affairs quiz. PHOTO: SINGAPORE POLYTECHNIC

SINGAPORE - Young people in Singapore who get the news from social media platforms are less informed of current affairs, a recent survey by Singapore Polytechnic students has shown.

The survey, conducted in June 2018 of 802 people aged between 15 and 35, showed that those who preferred social media as their choice of Internet platform for news achieved an average score of 47.6 per cent in a current affairs quiz.

Those who preferred news apps scored an average of 54.2 per cent - the highest among all Internet platforms - while those who preferred news websites scored 52.2 per cent.

The types of social media platforms that respondents preferred were not specified in the survey.

The survey was conducted by a team of five Year 2 Media and Communications students as an assignment. The team presented its findings at the Mass Media Research Press Conference at Singapore Polytechnic on Tuesday (Jan 15).

Commenting on the finding, a member of the team, Ms Tracey Ang, 19, said: "At school, we are taught to cross-refer to different sources to check for the reliability of a piece of news. If someone posts a screenshot of a news article on social media, I'd go online to search for different articles for cross-reference, so as to see if the information in the article is true, instead of believing it straightaway."

The 18 multiple-choice questions in the quiz tested respondents on their recognition of prominent international and local figures - such as Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - as well as their awareness of international and local policy changes - such as the increase in the goods and services tax in Budget 2018.

Young people who preferred the Internet as their main source of news scored the highest in the quiz on average with 52.1 per cent. Those who preferred physical newspapers scored 47 per cent while those who tuned in to radio scored 43.3 per cent and television 37.3 per cent.

Another team member, Mr Muhammad Farhan, 19, said: "When I was growing up, my parents placed much emphasis on reading newspapers, and discouraged us from using the Internet to keep ourselves informed because of the possibility of fake news. But our survey showed that those who used the Internet actually scored higher than those using traditional platforms."

"So I think the problem doesn't lie with using the Internet as a news source, but the issue of fake news lies in how we choose our sources of news on the Internet, and whether we fact-check our sources. " he added.

Mr Farhan also commented on the team's finding that respondents generally believed that they were better informed than they actually were.

The survey showed that 74 per cent believed they were well-informed but the average current affairs quiz score was 50.9 per cent.

Mr Farhan said: "We're afraid that this perception that people have that they are informed of current affairs will deter them from seeing the need to diversify their sources or actively consume news."

"We hope that this will serve as a wake-up call."

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