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Media Media Planning and Buying Future of TV

Channel 4 study unearths what gen Z really thinks about social media

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By John McCarthy | Opinion editor

November 1, 2022 | 4 min read

Channel 4 has commissioned a study into the beliefs and media consumption habits of gen Z, finding that a majority of youths believe social media is a net positive in their lives (and more).

Channel 4 Beyond Z

Channel 4 study adds nuance to lazy gen Z assumptions

The UK broadcaster has commissioned a nationally representative survey of 1,500 people in cohorts of both 13-24-year-olds and over-25s to understand the true mood of young people in the UK. Here are some of the findings from the study, which will help inform marketers on how to talk to 8 million teens and young adults.

Gen Z is more tolerant than previous generations on ‘emergent’ social issues such as support for the Black Lives Matter movement and transgender rights. For instance, only 48% of gen Z believe there are just two genders, compared to 68% of over-25s; they were found to be more supportive of multiculturalism than older cohorts.

Due to them growing up in online spaces, 25% say they have “very little tolerance for people with beliefs that they disagree with” and almost half said that “some people deserve to be canceled.” A generation intolerant of intolerance perhaps. But it’s not all conflict with older generations. Three out of five 13-24s see their parents as role models, a quarter point to a grandparent and about the same proportion identify a teacher.

And as to whether social media is gen Z’s biggest stress, half of the over-25s thought it was. But they misjudged their younger peers. Only 35% identified it as a source of stress, behind the cost of living, a lack of affordable housing, uncertainty about the future, the pressure to be successful and feelings around appearance. As the report stated, gen Z has the “same worries and priorities of people who have lived on these islands not just for generations or centuries, but millennia.”

And then there are the impacts of the rolling news cycle. Despite doom-mongering around government, climate and more, 60% of gen Z were positive about their own future.

As for social’s impact, 44% said they’ve learned to accept their body image as a result of content, and the exact same proportion have said it made things worse – it looks to depend on what’s being served up by each individual’s algorithm and friend group. 22% have unfollowed people who post overly-filtered images.

Gen Z doesn’t see social media as a major driver of poor mental health: 57% agree the positives outweigh the negatives. 61% feel empowered to influence their future.

Only 44% admitted they are aware that social media images are regularly manipulated to mislead viewers, and four in 10 felt pressures to engage in unhealthy activities such as eating disorders, over-exercising or taking diet pills or steroids. A fifth felt empowered on social, saying they pause when they need to. One in nine have left platforms permanently.

For more media analysis, check out The Drum’s Media Summit broadcast on November 2 and 3.

Media Media Planning and Buying Future of TV

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