Teens mostly get their news from friends and social media, the VOX survey found.
The youth development organization, which publishes a website and a print newspaper written by teens, conducted an online survey of 434 youth ages 13-19 in April.
It polled young people about after-school activities and risk behaviors as well as news information sources.
“We’re trying to find out how we can impact teens in the best possible way,” said Thalia Butts, 16, VOX editor-in-chief and a student at DeKalb School of the Arts in Atlanta.
She was among three youth staff members who, along with an adult, announced the results last week at an event celebrating Lights On Afterschool.
VOX operates an after-school program and summer multimedia journalism camp, where youth work on its publications.
The VOX survey results contrasted with a Pew Research Center finding that showed Facebook to be the top social media site among teens, followed by Instagram and Snapchat.
The Pew survey was different in that it polled roughly 1,000 parents and their teenage children nationwide and was conducted in fall 2014 and spring 2015.
Where teens get news
While 72 percent of Atlanta teens get their news about current events from friends or social media, more than half say they see news on traditional TV news shows, according to the VOX survey. More than one-third get news from radio talk shows or TV comedy shows.
Butts said the results show that to reach teens effectively, news needs to be presented with a strong visual component.
“If you want to make a message for teens, make it visually appealing,” she said.
“We do read news, by the way.” Teens initially hear about something on social media, then go to news sources to get more information, she said.
The survey concluded that apps and platforms accessible by smartphones were the best way to reach teens. Eighty-seven percent use a smartphone regularly, and 38 percent use it more than six hours daily, the survey found.
Survey questions were initially compiled by VOX adult staff, but six teens reviewed them and suggested changes in wording.
“Everything at VOX is teen-led,” said Nahila Louis-Charles, 16, a staff member.
The survey found that 72 percent of Atlanta teens generally go home after school, but 38 percent also take part in sports and 35 percent take part in other after-school activities.
Fewer than one-fourth say they are home alone or unsupervised for more than an hour on a school day.
Risky behaviors depart from national average
Some risk behaviors among Atlanta teens appeared lower than the national average. Twenty-nine percent said they texted or emailed while driving, compared with the national average of 41 percent.
While 15 percent of teens nationwide report being bullied electronically, only 11 percent of Atlanta teens did, according to the VOX survey.
The survey also showed that 24 percent of Atlanta teens engage in sexting.
Jeff Romig, executive director of VOX Teen Communications, said data about younger kids is more readily available than data about older kids. "We felt like we could help fill a gap," he said.
The information can also help other teen-serving organizations better connect with their clients, he said. It can impact program design.
The survey was distributed through schools and community organizations, but had the possibility of generating bias because of its distribution through VOX’s network of teens, who may not mirror the entire Atlanta teen population. A sample size of 500 was sought to counter possible bias. The survey has a 5 percent margin of error.
“Teens really do want to be engaged and learn,” said Lindsey Knox, a producer at CNN and chair of the board of VOX Teen Communications.
The founder of VOX Teen Communications is Rachel Alterman Wallack, who is managing editor of Youth Today.