Ofcom’s recent report into news consumption in the UK has revealed that almost six in ten teenagers aged between 12 and 15 have an interest in news.
Ian Eddy, news editor for First News, which is the only newspaper in the UK specifically for preteens and teenagers, said that reporting for younger audiences is not too unlike ‘normal’ reporting. First News covers just as wide a range of topics, with a particular focus on human-interest stories.
"Kids are interested in some things that adults are maybe a bit surprised by. A lot of kids are interested in Brexit," said Eddy.
Next week’s front page, for example, features a boy who has been forced to cut off his long hair before starting secondary school, due to the school’s uniform and appearance rules.
11-year-old Alfie Howard-Hughes is prepared to take his new secondary school to court, in a battle over his 68.5cm-long hair. How do you think your pupils would vote? https://t.co/EAM8OL1gFl #EdChat #Poll pic.twitter.com/IURBBqZCrW— First News Education (@FirstNews_Teach) August 2, 2019
Reporting for younger audiences can often prove challenging though, especially with disturbing and upsetting events, such as terror attacks and natural disasters.
Eddy explains: "Those kind of things are hard to avoid, as [kids] are going to be reading about it somewhere, whether it’s on the internet, or whether it’s talking with friends, or on the TV.
"We definitely do cover those stories but try to be reassuring about it and remind kids that those kind of things are incredibly rare."
Some topics that perhaps aren’t as worrisome for adults, such as the climate crisis, have left a lot of children genuinely scared and concerned. First News take that into account in their editorial by looking at reports of what people are doing to alleviate it, and what children can do to help stop the climate emergency.
First News is often used as a learning tool and it is also distributed to almost half of schools across the UK. One of its recent special editions featured a guide for schools on how to identify fake news and an explainer on the role of the press.
Have you heard about the government's new policy on teaching fake news and confirmation bias? Download our special fake news edition for free to help your pupils make sense of the news https://t.co/Q8u24Kjag9 #FakeNews #Education pic.twitter.com/m6UkrckMOz— First News Education (@FirstNews_Teach) July 31, 2019
The Ofcom report also found that when children are not interested in news coverage, it is mostly because they found it too boring or not relevant for them.
So how to take complex news stories, like Brexit, and make them more understandable and more relatable for younger audiences?
Eddy said that explainers work well, particularly when they cover areas of interest to children. On Brexit, First News ran a two-page article featuring an analysis by an economist and a European health expert; the issues discussed included travelling abroad and the Northern Irish border.
First News also features more light-hearted reports and makes stories fun where appropriate. Simplifying stories as much as possible is essential to make sure the content remains engaging for younger readers.