Results: Research on youth and media

Media try to communicate with every member of society. But we have to ask whether media have special tailor made strategy for each of its target groups? Some stories, if presented from one angle, are more attractive to elders, and if you put it differently, then those same stories can be more interesting for youth. Thus, it is important to give special treatment to each target group, and develop program and subjects according to that.

This research analyzes relationship between youth and media in Serbia, and it is conducted in ten countries of South Eastern Europe (Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Albania, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey and Croatia). However these countries may seem different, youth have similar problems there.

The main conclusion of the research is that youth does not have enough space in media, and that situation encourages detach from public discourse. If put simple – youth does not want to be part of public life in Serbia, because that same public life does not want to deal with them.

In this research, we included opinion of youth, media staff and youth organizations.

Youth in society and media

National youth strategy in Serbia has been enacted in 2008. This Strategy has many goals, but the most important is that the focus of the Strategy is development of the information system for youth and improving of their media literacy.

If we analyze documents that cover and regulate relationship of youth and media, first thing we see is that there are no many documents as such.

A good thing is that high school students, since last year, have the opportunity to study media literacy, as a part of Civil education class. Since this course is not mandatory, then media literacy is not mandatory for these students.

Another good news is that there are many debate clubs in high schools and on faculties in Belgrade. Stuff of “Open communication” is the facilitator of debate these workshops. This is a good opportunity for young people to develop their critical thinking, and thus understand media information and be able to analyze it.

So, how youth comes in touch with media content? Our research shows that that happens online most of the time (via computer, mobile phone or tablet). Television is also still quite popular, but press lost in this competition.

We also asked media representatives to estimate which media gets most attention from youth, and if we compare their answers with the youth’s responses, we can say that media representatives were right in many cases. Around 2/3 of respondents said that internet gets the most attention, 20,7% of respondents said that social media gets the most attention, while TV and radio left quite behind. None of the respondents selected print media.

When also asked youth to estimate which media out of the list is most suitable for different given activities, and small number of them chosen radio, television or print as most suitable for listed activity. On the other hand, internet and social media “won” this one, since great number of respondents said that internet is most suitable for education, entertainment, informing, activism and mobilization. Social media were estimated as most suitable for communication, acquiring membership in a particular group, self-promotion, recruiting and self-expression.

It was also important for us to find out what do young people think about their presence in media. Great number of them thinks that youth is not present enough when covering politics, economy/business, religion, health, nature and environment. For some of these categories, we can see that besides the fact that they are not present enough when covering these areas, they also don’t have interest in these subjects. For example, we have already mentioned religion. On the other hand, not a negligible number of them is interested in nature and environment (almost 1/3) but they are underrepresented when this subject is covered by media. When it comes to completely different situation, where we asked them to estimate which are the subjects where young people are often present in when covering, we don’t have so much areas which “gained” big percentage. Here we can mention crime news (deviance), since 27,5% of respondents said that youth is present too often when covering this area.

Youth organizations came to similar conclusions, and they added fashion and fun as subjects where youth are more present than needed. Nonetheless, these organizations did nothing to make things better on “the field”.

Media representatives said that youth wants to be part of these “light” content. According to them, youth is not interested in serious subject such as economy, religion and similar.

Media literacy

According to EC, media literacy is: “the ability to access the media, understand it and have a critical approach towards its content but also to create communication in different contexts”. It consists of three areas of abilities: ability to use, ability to critically understand and ability to communicate. When talking about the results of the survey, it was shown that none of interviewed media organizations have worked with youth as a target group which can be considered as an example of non-strategic approach regarding youth and media . 

As already said, media literacy is available since last year in our high schools, but it is still not mandatory.

The first that comes to mind when discussing the information we are exposed to is the question how reliable and / or accurate the information is. This question is the corner stone of critical thinking – the possibility to process the information gathered, using logical tools in order to create an opinion on the matter at hand. The research data shows that the young in Serbia are aware of the importance of this issue – the overall majority of the respondents opted for medium option, thus stating that the information provided by media is neither completely reliable nor unreliable. Different types of media are labeled in the same fashion, with minor changes in attitudes – for example, respondents are a little bit prone to labeling social media as “completely unreliable” (17,3%). This can be because of the fact that they are well-immersed in the world of social media and therefore have great experience with it.    

An interesting notion is that only 13,3% of the respondents would share their concerns with an CSO. This percentage of answers is by far the smallest, but the reasons for it are unclear. Bearing in mind the overall climate towards the CSO in Serbia, this in fact, can be a result of the negative or selective portraying of CSO in mass media – they are usually depicted only as organizations working in the field of human rights, European integration and high politics, which can elude the young into thinking that only organizations of this portrait are representatives of CSO. The second reason is that contacting a CSO requires some effort and prior knowledge of the topic: a young person willing to raise some question must first be able to recognize a CSO specialized in that particular field and then find contacts of the people associated with it. On the other hand, for “comparing the information elsewhere” one only needs to spend a couple of minutes searching the web, with requires much less effort and is at the same time less time consuming.

Freedom of expression

Overall, approximately 1/3 (36.8%) of the respondents stated that they are ‘never afraid’ to comment on the web in contrast to 31% who are ‘rarely’ or ‘always afraid’ to do so. At the same time, 1/3 of the people involved in the survey did not fill in this question for many reasons, one of which may be that they felt uncomfortable with its content. On the other hand, it is encouraging that only a small portion of interviewees are ‘always afraid’ to comment on the web (6,1%).

When bringing up the political opinion comes to mind, there is a similar trend: approximately ¼ of the overall respondents (27,4%) are ‘never’ uncomfortable when posting their political opinion  on the web, while similar number (28,9%) are either ‘rarely’ or ‘all the time’ in the same position. The number of youth who are ‘all the time’ uncomfortable to comment this issue is doubled, compared to the previous question (12,7%).

The young are predominantly cautious in on line interaction – only 10,7% are ‘never’ or ‘rarely’ careful in this kind of communication, compared to 36,1% who are ‘careful all the time’. Unfortunately, this leaves more than half of the respondents not willing to answer this question due to some reason.

Coopeation of youth and media

Most of media representatives cooperate with young people and with youth organizations, but they say that it is ussualy their initiative. When working in media, young person is ussualy involved in subjects like education, sports and fun.

Youth organizations tend to use different types of media in order to get better reach of their target groups. We wanted to know how much they use each of those types of media and how they use it. Most of them (72,2%) use web site, social networks (95,6%) and media sharing sites (61,1%). Around one quarter of them are using blog and newsletter as their way of communication with their target groups. TV and Radio, as traditional media, are used by one third of our respondents, as well as micro blogging services (for example twitter). On the bottom of this list are social bookmarking sites and wikis, as not so popular types of media. It is understandable why web site and social networks are the most used types of media, since most of youth organization’s target groups are the one who use these types of media. Their target groups are creating rules of communication for them.



This research showed that there is space for improvement of this relatinship. Young people don’t have their voice in media, and when they do, it is ussualy in some „fun“ context or they are presented as violent, apolitical and depended.

For good future of this country, it is important to make an evnironment which is sensitive for problems which youth is facing, since soon they will be build future of our society.

Comparative report with the overall results can be found here.

17. Jun 2014.