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Teenworthy: How Kids Get Their News

Published on: December 30, 2013


Editor's Note: Teenworthy is a column written by teens for parents and teens. All those times you want to know what's going on with your teen but the conversation isn't as ... robust as you'd like? Check Teenworthy, where teens who want to be listened to will let you into their world. Use the topics you read about here to start conversations with your own friends or kids. If you have a burning question for a teen or know of any brave teens who want to write for this column, let us know!

Hello, parents. My name is Aidan, and I’m a high school sophomore in Seattle. My job as a “teen blogger” for ParentMap is to go behind the scenes in the teen world, to bring parents up to speed on some of the trends and tech that are popular with their tween and teen children. I hope these posts may also give you something fun to talk about together.

Today I will be talking about how kids get their news. We get informed in traditional ways, like hearing the radio in the car or TV news broadcasts, but the Internet is full of other ways teens and tweens learn what’s going on in the world and stay current.

One news source, believe it or not, is Facebook. Besides sharing events in our lives and photos that sometimes display questionable judgment, teens post surprising, often-just-breaking news they see and find interesting. I heard about the death of Steve Jobs from a post someone put up while I was browsing on Facebook. When I told my parents a few hours later, they had no idea that he had died. It was the same with the Osama Bin Laden news.

Popular Internet forums that also have news, such as Reddit, have sections of their website devoted to everything from astronomy to the game Minecraft to country music. On the “front page” of Reddit, major news events show up along with the latest popular memes, GIFs and other trending content.  It can be an odd mashup — teens might see that John Boehner rejected President Obama’s budget in the same screen as a photo of a large ring made out of Pringles potato chips.

Another popular site is 4chan, which is similar to Reddit, but has more content that is explicit and more “haters” posting rude comments. The explicit forums are labeled with a red tag that says NSFW (Not Safe For Work) and can have inappropriate content such as gore or nudity. Reddit has some NSFW areas too, but they aren’t as obviously marked.

Another of part of Reddit is the Today I Learned section (TIL), where people can share cool facts that they have discovered. One interesting TIL factoid I read was that President Roosevelt received letters from army cavalrymen complaining about having to ride 25 miles a day for training, and, in response, Teddy rode horseback for 100 miles, from sunrise to sunset, at the age of 51. Each of these “TIL”s are linked to a source article. Readers can filter items by most recent or by popularity.

Another feature of Reddit is the AmA (Ask me Anything), where an interview subject answers questions people ask about them or their job. A lot are regular people, like a Taco Bell employee, but some famous participants include Bill Gates, Niel deGrasse Tyson, Arnold Schwarzenegger and even Barack Obama. His campaign saw it as a way to reach the younger demographic.

If you want to see some of these websites and check out all the stories your kids are reading, take a look. Let me know what you think in the comments!

208Aidan Weed is a high school sophomore who lives in Seattle. He enjoys drumming, lacrosse and video games, and his favorite subject in school is Latin.

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