A new Canadian report highlights a dramatic shift in views toward the Internet, and a remarkable dichotomy between children and parents. The report, titled “Talking to Youth and Parents about Life Online”, is part of an ongoing study – Young Canadians in a Wired World. It is the most comprehensive investigation into the role of the Internet in the lives of Canadian children.
“When we first began collecting data in 2000, adults described the Internet as a useful source of information. Today, the majority see the Internet as a source of fear and home to unknowable threats to their children,” said Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director at MediaSmarts, formerly known as Media Awareness Network.
Among Canadian children, the Internet is no longer the fun, private zone it was a decade ago. Children feel they are living in a fishbowl, under watchful eyes. The report also notes that, according to students, anti-cyberbullying programs aren’t working. Kids feel that adults who monitor their every move tend to exaggerate issues and pathologize everyday behaviour. As a result, students tend not to turn to teachers for help. Instead, they employ their own online coping strategies, such as ignoring or blocking interactions.
The new findings will form the foundation for a national survey of youth to take place in 2013. The Young Canadians in Wired World: Talking to Youth and Parents about Life Online study was made possible by the financial contributions from the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. The full report can viewed online, as can previous phases of the study.
In addition to releasing its new report, the organization also unveiled its new name, MediaSmarts. “Our new name best reflects what we do: We collaborate with teachers, parents and students to help nurture savvy online citizens. A generation ago, we taught our children street smarts. Today, we need to teach them media smarts,” said Cathy Wing, Co-Executive Director, MediaSmarts.
The not-for-profit organization was created 16 years ago as part of the federal government’s media anti-violence strategy. From its original roots, MediaSmarts has matured into a world leader in developing resources to help youth become savvy online citizens.
MediaSmarts worked with the Toronto-based agency Brandworks who volunteered its services to the year-long rebranding process.