The Missing Middle: Reimagining a Future for Tweens, Teens, and Public Media

The Missing Middle: Reimagining a Future for Tweens, Teens, and Public Media

The Joan Ganz Cooney Center and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting have partnered to better understand how young people are engaging with media today in order to help public media better serve Gen Z. As part of our By/With/For Youth: Inspiring Next Gen Public Media Audiences, we spoke with tweens and teens across the U.S. about how they spend their time, what they find interesting, how they find new shows, apps, or videos, what issues are important to them, as well as what misconceptions adults have about youth. We asked them for their advice about what media producers should do if they want to engage with people their age, and how their lives have changed during the pandemic.

The report features the voices of a generation of youth who crave authenticity and who want to be more than passive consumers in this rapidly changing media landscape. The participating 10-17-year-olds described how they seamlessly move across platforms and devices depending on their moods, interests, and access to certain kinds of connectivity. In addition, some key highlights from the research are:

  • Video dominates youths’ media experiences, for everything from entertainment to connecting with friends
  • In terms of discovery, social media, search, and recommendations are paramount
  • While tweens and teens were grateful for digital media to help maintain connections with friends and family, many expressed eventually reaching a state of boredom with technology
  • Online learning has been difficult for some youth during the pandemic
  • Tweens and teens are accustomed to having a great deal of control in how, when, and where they express themselves online
  • Youth want to see kids like them in and participating in the development of programming
  • Youth often had difficulty discerning fact from fiction
  • Youth want to see content that addresses the everyday challenges that they face

By featuring the voices of young people, the report aims to help public media stakeholders better understand this creative and savvy audience in order to better serve their needs.

Download the full report.


Watch the virtual release event. (May 25, 2021)

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