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HKBU research finds Hong Kong students’ critical news literacy has room for improvement

21 Jun 2018

Dr Kelly Ku (centre) introduces the research findings
Dr Kelly Ku (centre) introduces the research findings

The Department of Education Studies (EDUC) and Centre for Child Development (CCD) conducted a research and found that social media is the most used platform by secondary school students for reading news. However, nearly half of them have no knowledge that social media filters news for different users. Regarding critical news literacy performance, participants have the best performance on “Distinguishing Facts and Claims” but have to improve upon “Evaluating Evidence”.


The HKBU interdisciplinary team was led by Assistant Professor of EDUC and Acting Director of CCD Dr Kelly Ku, who was the Principal Investigator of the research. Other members included Assistant Professor of EDUC Dr Lisa Deng, Assistant Professor of the Department of Journalism Dr Celine Song, and Assistant Professor of the Department of Government and International Studies Dr Kang Yi. Funded by the Public Policy Research Funding Scheme from Policy Innovation and Co-ordination Office of the HKSAR Government, their research entitled “Investigating Hong Kong Students’ Critical News Literacy in the Age of Social Media” aims to know more about Hong Kong secondary school students’ habit of reading news on social media and to assess their critical news literacy.


The team conducted a survey questionnaire and interviewed 1,505 Hong Kong students between the ages of 12 and 18 (878 were 15-18 years old and the remaining 627 were 12-14 years old) from July to December 2017 to know more about students’ social media news engagement, news-seeking motivations, trust in news as well as to assess their critical news literacy across different domains.


Based on the research, Social Media (34%) was reported as the most used platform for students aged between 15 and 18 years; outweighing Television News (31%), Internet News (24%), and Print News (9%). P

For students aged between 12 and 14 years, Television News (33%) and Social Media (32%) are the most popular news source. 


Regarding the use of social media for reading news, Facebook (52%) was the most used platform for following news among 15- to 18-year-olds, and YouTube (32%) among 12- to 14-year-olds. Research found that one in five teenagers would share or discuss news on social media on a daily basis and 3% of the interviewed students reported that they have no habit of following news.


Research data showed that about half of the interviewed students reported having no knowledge of news-feed algorithms employed by social media to filter news for different users, this percentage is higher in the group of students aged between 12 and 14 years, at 56%. About half the students who responded welcomed the news-feed algorithms as it allows easier access to news that they are interested in, however some indicated concern over the risk imposed, such as privacy exposure. The concern was slightly higher among the group of students aged between 15 and 18 years at 7.3%, compared to 5.7% for the group of students aged between 12 and 14 years. In addition, 40% of participating students reported a lack of trust in news found on social media.


Regarding critical news literacy, participating students performed poorest on “Evaluating Evidence”, best on “Distinguishing Facts and Claims” and satisfactorily on “Understanding News Content”.


Dr Ku said that news literacy, the critical-thinking skills for analysing and judging the reliability of news and information, has been put under the spotlight in many Asian and Western countries, particularly with the growing phenomenon dubbed “fake news”. She suggested related bodies in Hong Kong to introduce News Literacy Education in formal secondary-school education as soon as possible so that youngsters can know more about news production and the role of news media in a society so that they can be proactive and capable in analysing the truthfulness of news and information and enable them to think about social issues effectively.