Young Canadians need less surveillance and more mentorship online: national study highlights the important role of adults in kids' online lives

OTTAWA, Jan. 22, 2015 /CNW/ - A new report released by MediaSmarts, Canada's centre for digital and media literacy, calls on parents, teachers and policy makers to support young Canadians in meeting the challenges of growing up in the digital age.

The Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Trends and Recommendations report brings together the findings from interviews with children and teens, parents and teachers and a national survey of students in grades 4 to 11, which took place between 2012 and 2013.

"When we brought together all of the research from our third phase of the Young Canadians in a Wired World study, the call to action for adults was very clear," says Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director, MediaSmarts. "If we want resilient kids we need to understand what young people's experiences are online, listen to their concerns, and intervene with their best interests in mind."

The report offers recommendations for a wide range of issues young people encounter online, including sexting, excessive Internet use, cyberbullying and privacy risks. It also includes an analysis of students' top 50 favourite websites and profiles of students' online activities organized by grade.

Observations and over-arching recommendations from the report include:

  • The way forward is to create an empathetic online culture. Fostering empathy and encouraging students to treat each other with kindness and respect will promote positive online behaviour.
  • Promoting positive social norms will help reduce instances of cyberbullying and sexting by showing young people that these activities are not as common as they may think.
  • Rules that communicate values and expectations are important for encouraging healthy online behaviours. The research shows that students with rules at home relating to risky online behaviour are less likely to engage in those behaviours. Schools can take a "parental" approach by focussing on rules that establish positive norms and values instead of rules aimed at punishing bad behaviour.
  • Zero-tolerance policies don't work. Encouraging trust and open dialogue is the best approach, particularly when dealing with mean and cruel online behaviour.
  • We can create more resilient youth by implementing a child-centered approach to digital literacy where we move from a focus on protection to a focus on empowerment.
  • Surveillance can create more risk for youth. Kids understand the safety messages they have been taught, what they now need from adults is involvement and mentorship. Parents and teachers need to work together, as young people look to both for guidance on a variety of Internet issues.
  • While kids turn to their parents for help in navigating digital issues, parents are feeling overwhelmed by the pace of technological change and need resources to help them guide their children.
  • Parents, teachers and policy makers should become more aware of the highly commercialized nature of kids' favourite online spaces (just one of the top 50 sites was non-commercial). Kids need media literacy education to be able to recognize when they're being advertised to and need to learn how to deal with the efforts by many of these sites to harvest their personal data.

This is the final in a series of nine reports examining young Canadians' activities and behaviours relating to a variety of Internet issues, including: cyberbullying, online relationships, privacy, offensive content, sexting, excessive use and digital literacy in the classroom and home. To download the full series of reports, including infographics and slideshows, visit

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Trends and Recommendations was made possible by financial contributions from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Alberta Teachers' Association. 

MediaSmarts is a Canadian not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy. Its vision is that young people have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens., @mediasmarts

SOURCE MediaSmarts

For further information: Maya Shoucair, Communications Manager, MediaSmarts, 613-224-7721 ext. 231,


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