Canadian youth regularly encounter racist and sexist content online, with boys more likely to be exposed to it

Ottawa, ON (June 19, 2014) – One third of grade 7 to 11 students report they encounter racist or sexist content online at least once a day or once a week, according to a new Canadian study from MediaSmarts. Boys encounter racist and sexist content online more frequently than girls and are also more likely to brush off discriminatory content as a joke, with girls more likely to be hurt when the joke is made at their expense. Boys are also three times more likely to make fun of someone’s race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation online.

The report shows that students have very contradictory feelings about the discriminatory talk they come across online. While the majority agree they should speak up when they see it so people know it’s wrong, students feel it’s not their place to say anything because it is often written off as a joke without the intention to hurt.

MediaSmarts surveyed over 5,400 students in classrooms across the country on their Internet behaviours and attitudes as part of its Young Canadians in a Wired World study. Encountering Racist and Sexist Content Online looks at how often Canadian youth are exposed to prejudice, how it makes them feel and how they respond to it.

“We can’t always control what type of material kids will encounter online but we can teach them how to respond to harmful content when they come across it”, says Cathy Wing, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. “Educational initiatives to help kids speak up when they see offensive content are important to help make sure that racism and sexism are not an accepted part of online communities.”

Key findings include:

  • 78% of students have come across racist or sexist content online
  • 37% of all students see racist or sexist content online at least once a day or once a week
  • 54% of French-language students in Quebec report never seeing racist or sexist content online vs. 18% of English-language students in the rest of Canada. 
  • 5% of girls and 17% of boys say that they have made fun of someone’s race, religion or ethnicity online
  • 78% agree that it is important to say something so people know racist and sexist talk is wrong
  • 57% don’t say anything because, most of the time, people are just joking around
  • 44% say racist and sexist things to each other online but don’t mean anything by it
  • 52% say people say racist and sexist things because they are insensitive, but not because they mean to hurt anyone

To view the Encountering Racist and Sexist Content Online report, infographic and slide show, visit http://mediasmarts.ca/ycww/encountering-racist-sexist-content-online. Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Encountering Racist and Sexist Content Online 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.

Past reports examined online relationships, cyberbullying, online privacy and digital literacy in the classroom and in the home. A final trends and recommendations report will be available in the fall.

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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.ca, @mediasmarts

Contact:
Maya Shoucair, Communications Manager, MediaSmarts
613-224-7721 ext. 231 mshoucair@mediasmarts.ca

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