TikTok is now the most popular single source of news for teenagers in the UK, according to research by Ofcom.
The media regulator found that the video-sharing app is used by 28% of 12 to 15-year-olds for finding out about current affairs, a higher proportion than any other platform.
YouTube and Instagram are joint second, with both used by 25% of those in the age group for the purpose, according to the regulator’s News Consumption In The UK 2022/23 report.
It comes as the internet increasingly replaces traditional print media as a news source among the general public.
Some 68% of UK adults now use online sources for news, compared with just 26% for physical newspapers, the Ofcom research found.
However TV remains the most popular platform, with 70% of adults tuning in to find out about current events – with the figure rising to 75% when on-demand content is included.
Nic Newman, a senior research associate at the Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, said that while TikTok has often been seen as a platform for lighter topics rather than “serious” news, events such as the COVID pandemic had changed perceptions.
He said: “COVID was a big change because people were at home and people were talking about COVID on TikTok and people had a bit of time.
“That’s a case of very serious news being carried on TikTok.
“Passions and celebrity news, that’s a big part of what’s going on with the younger people, but there’s also serious news, that’s the wider big shift.”
It comes after a separate study also recently found that TiKTok is growing in popularity as a source for news among young people around the world.
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Across all age groups, Facebook continues to be the most used social media platform for accessing news. However, it is showing signs of decline after reaching only 30% of adults in the last year – down from 35% in 2019, Ofcom said.
In contrast, TikTok has seen a “significant” increase in popularity as a news source and is now used by 10% of adults for the purpose – up from just 1% in 2020.
Despite the rise of TikTok, 45% of 12 to 15-year-olds said they were not interested in the news – with almost half saying they found it “too boring”. A further 16% said they found it “too upsetting”.
The app has also faced growing criticism and concern among western governments in recent years over its alleged links to the Chinese government, leading to the platform being banned on government devices in Australia, Canada, the EU and the UK.
TikTok’s owner, Chinese internet company ByteDance, has denied sharing data with officials in Beijing.
In April the company was fined £12.7m for breaches of data protection law, including using the personal data of children aged under 13 without parental consent.
The Information Commissioner’s Office estimated that around 1.4 million under-13s in the UK were routinely using TikTok – despite its rules stating that you must be 13 or over to create an account.
Ofcom’s research, which included interviews with more than 1,000 young people, also found that 23% of those aged 12 to 15 were most interested in news relating to “sports or sports personalities”.
A further 15% said they were keen to find out about “music news or singers”, while 11% said they wanted to keep up-to-date with the latest on “celebrities or famous people”.
Social media platforms are also among the top news outlets for young people aged 16 to 24, the report found.
Instagram is the most popular single news source, with 44% of the age group using it for that purpose, while 29% said they use TikTok for find out the latest on current affairs.
Only one in 10 said they consumed no news at all, compared with 5% of UK adults overall.