To the point of believing in conspiracies: study: majority of young people distrust the media

Media are part of everyday life for today's young people - their life is determined to a large extent by it.

To the point of believing in conspiracies: study: majority of young people distrust the media

Media are part of everyday life for today's young people - their life is determined to a large extent by it. However, according to a study, young people's trust in the media is low. Researchers also have a suspicion as to why this is so.

According to a study, a large majority of young people in Germany do not trust the media. 75.8 percent mistrust newspapers, 71.6 percent mistrust journalists. More than a third of young people suspect that the media intentionally withholds important information (37.9 percent) and only spreads their own opinion (32.8 percent).

Study leader Holger Ziegler described these results as "alarming". A healthy skepticism is definitely helpful, but this is about something else: "If we not only question the truthfulness of information, but if we suspect that - in this case - the media want to deliberately withhold information and manipulate it, then we move in a dangerous realm of conspiracy beliefs."

For the study, which was carried out by the University of Bielefeld on behalf of the Bepanthen child support, 1582 children (6 to 11 years) and young people (12 to 16 years) were interviewed. The study is representative within the urban section of the population considered, said Ziegler. Families in Berlin, Leipzig, Cologne, Deggendorf, Herne, Neunkirchen/Saar, Reutlingen, Stralsund, Bitburg and Aurich were surveyed.

Regarding the possible reasons for the low level of trust in the media, Ziegler said: "The lives of growing children and young people are shaped to a large extent by the media." With just a few clicks you can get up-to-date information about the state of the world. "Reports of climate change and poverty, fake news and war can be scary and leave their mark. One way to react is to question this information, withdraw and distrust others - including the media."

According to the study, trust in public institutions is also only moderate among young people. Only every second young person trusts the federal government (53.9 percent). In contrast, scientists (76.1 percent) and the police (79.9 percent) enjoy significantly higher levels of trust. The study shows that of the young people who have little trust in public institutions, more than a third (38.7 percent) have a high susceptibility to conspiracy ideas, said Ziegler. There is also a connection between media consumption and a tendency to conspire: Of the young people who prefer to get their information from social media, 37.6 percent showed a strong tendency to conspire. Only 5.4 percent of the young people who obtained an above-average amount of information from the public media.

Doubts about yourself and others are to be expected during puberty, said Ziegler. However, the extent of the lack of trust in others found here is remarkable: Two thirds of young people (63.6 percent) have no trust in other people. Around every second young person believes that anyone who relies on others will be exploited (49.3 percent) and has therefore already experienced that one cannot rely on others (46.3 percent).

39.6 percent of young people do not believe that most people have good intentions. A quarter of young people (24.5 percent) have low self-confidence. According to Ziegler, this also influences people's view of the future: more than a third of young people (34.8 percent) are pessimistic about the future of society. "We are seeing a remarkable and also worrying development here. Young people only have very limited trust in society's ability to find solutions. But those who lose faith in the community withdraw and resign."

Accordingly, gender-specific differences in the development of trust are also striking. Girls between the ages of twelve and 16 have less self-confidence (girls: 72.7 percent, boys: 81.0 percent) and less trust in others than boys of the same age (girls: 49.5 percent, boys: 58.5 percent). Trust in public institutions is also less pronounced among girls than among boys. Sixty percent of teenage girls say they have little trust in public institutions, compared to 42.8 percent of boys.

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