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From TikTok to Netflix, Gen Z is embracing closed captions. We asked them why.

Closed captioning device in a movie theater.
A closed captioning device in a New York movie theater.Newsday LLC
  • Millennials and Generation Z can hear just fine, but 63% prefer subtitles, says a new study.

  • YouGov found that 18 to 29-year-olds overwhelmingly preferred subtitles compared to older people.

  • Some of them said they used subtitles to concentrate better or to understand thick accents.

They might not be the target audience, but Gen Z and millennials like subtitles — better than any other adults in America, a survey found.

The survey, conducted by the London-based research and data analytics firm YouGov between June 29 and July 5 of 2023, surveyed 1,000 adults in the US. It found that the 18 to 29-year-olds surveyed watched TV in their native language with subtitles 63% of the time.

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Comparatively, older adults surveyed used subtitles much less: 30 to 44-year-olds used them only 37% of the time, 45 to 64-year-olds used them 29%, and adults 65 and older used them 30%.

The figures seem odd to many people, primarily since using subtitles is often associated with needing hearing assistance. According to the CDC's National Center for Health Statistics, data collected from 2019-2022 found only about 7% of adults in the US from 18 to 34 years old report some difficulty hearing.

"Are young people going deaf?" asked one user on X, the site formerly known as Twitter.

Some members of Gen Z who spoke with Insider did indeed have hearing difficulties: Pōhai Chandler, who is 24, is partially deaf.

"It's easier for me to understand movies or shows when they're subtitled because it's easier for me to comprehend what they're saying and listen," Chandler said.

However, most members of Gen Z who spoke to Insider said they didn't usually use subtitles to hear better.

Siblings Evynn and Cam Bronson of Idaho Falls, Idaho, are 23 and 28, respectively. Both use subtitles, but each told Insider they liked them in different situations.

"I use it about 75% of the time," said Cam. "If people have accents or there's a lot of dialogue, I tend to use it… If I'm watching a show with any sort of narrative, I have those subtitles on."

Evynn also said she uses subtitles almost all the time, but especially on public transit.

Mauricio Morales, a 28-year-old millennial, speaks English as a second language. Subtitles help his focus and comprehension, he told Insider.

Sierra Sanchez, 22, resides in Washington, DC. Sanchez uses subtitles on almost any platform she watches videos on. She added they help keep her focused and engaged. "It keeps my attention better. I tend to have a shorter attention span, especially being a part of the 'TikTok generation,'" she said. "I don't need them for any health reasons."

Still others, in the minority, disagreed with their peers. Nineteen-year-old Gavin McCracken does not use captions; because he has ADHD, they are "distracting" and make it hard for him to understand while watching.

David Titmus, spokesperson for VITAC, or VITal ACcess, which captions various types of programming. He told Insider there had been an increasing demand for captions every year.

"A large part of this is that younger viewers simply are used to seeing captions. They consume media through their phones and captions and subtitles are how they watch content when they can't use the audio stream," said Titmus in an email. "Whereas captions used to be this extra service for some viewers, it's now become an expected service for a lot of viewers."

Titmus added that subtitles help make content accessible to "anyone, anywhere."

Read the original article on Insider