As Ofcom confirms that young people now stay informed through Instagram and TikTok, we meet the online newshounds
In early March, military experts reported that Russian tanks were sporting handwritten “Z” symbols. The letter, thought to be a staunchly pro-war symbol of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, was soon spotted at Russian bus stops, a school, then on a Russian gymnast’s uniform during a World Cup event at Qatar. On 8 March, 18-year-old TikToker Matt Welland explained the symbol’s meaning and its significance to his 2.4 million subscribers, along with the caption “the ‘Z’ symbol is more terrifying than you think”.
The scale of the influence of social media personalities such as Welland in disseminating current affairs was revealed last week. An Ofcom report found that, for the first time, Instagram was the most popular news source among teenagers, used by 29% of them in 2022, while 28% used TikTok and YouTube.