Joan Ganz Cooney Center Releases Report on Tweens’ and Teens’ Media Practices

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

May 24, 2021

NEW YORK, NY (May 24, 2021) -- Despite access to an overwhelming abundance of digital options for learning, playing, and communicating, tweens and teens want media that represents them more authentically and can be trusted, according to a new report released today by the Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop.

In partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the Joan Ganz Cooney Center has released The Missing Middle: Reimagining a Future for Tweens, Teens, and Public Media. The report aims to help public media better serve and inspire today’s youth as they learn and grow in a constantly expanding and fragmented media landscape. The report brings to the foreground the voices of 50 tweens and teens across the U.S. who discussed their media practices in focus groups with Cooney Center Senior Fellows Mary Madden and Monica Bulger. 

“Tweens and teens are an elusive audience for anyone in media. But they are also the audience that is perhaps the most critical to reach, to support them as they do the work of growing up and entering society ready to harness media for learning, connection, creativity, and play,” said Michael Preston, Executive Director of the Joan Ganz Cooney Center. 

The participating 10-17-year-olds described spending their free time moving seamlessly across platforms and devices depending on their moods, their interests, and their access to certain kinds of connectivity. The study finds that video dominates their media experiences, for everything from entertainment to connecting with friends, and they are accustomed to having a great deal of control in how, when, and where they express themselves online. They increasingly seek out how-to videos to answer their questions, solve specific problems, or learn new skills. 

At the same time, many of the participants mentioned a desire for media that portray more authentic representations of youth, as well as desire for a role in the development of the programming. Many also expressed a need for sources of trustworthy information that could help them discern fact from fiction, especially about social issues that they feel are important, and signaled a need to make their voices heard about causes that matter to them. When invited to share their advice for public media, youth often asked for media that addresses the everyday challenges that tweens and teens face, and stories that reflect the diversity they see in their generation.

CPB funded the Cooney Center research to provide public media with a roadmap of how young people are using media today, and to explore ways in which public media can be a platform for creating content by, with, and for youth to inspire a next generation of public media audiences. The findings will help to inform future content development, local station projects, and potential partnerships. 

"Today’s tweens and teens are the hope and future of our nation, and this research will help public media better serve their needs, and support their desire to learn, be creative and develop new skills,” said Debra Tica Sanchez, Senior Vice President of Education and Children’s Content for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. 
The report can be found at
About the Joan Ganz Cooney Center
The Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop is a nonprofit research and innovation lab that focuses on the challenges of fostering smarter, stronger, and kinder children in a rapidly changing media landscape. We conduct original research on emerging learning technologies and collaborate with educators and media producers to put this research into action. We also aim to inform the national conversation on media and education by working with policymakers and investors. For more information, visit and follow us on Twitter @CooneyCenter, Facebook and subscribe for other updates. 
About the Corporation for Public Broadcasting
The Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private, nonprofit corporation created by Congress in 1967, is the steward of the federal government’s investment in public broadcasting. It helps support the operations of more than 1,500 locally managed and operated public television and radio stations nationwide. CPB is also the largest single source of funding for research, technology and program development for public radio, television, and related online services. For more information, visit, follow us on Twitter @CPBmediaFacebook and LinkedIn and subscribe for email updates. 
For more information, contact: 
Catherine Jhee
Joan Ganz Cooney Center at Sesame Workshop 

Categories: CPB Funding, Education