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October 24, 2001 (Ottawa) - Canadian children and youth are putting themselves at risk as they explore the Internet with little or no supervision, according to research findings released today by the Media Awareness Network (MNet). The findings focus on areas of risk such as children and youth exploring private and adult-only chat rooms, meeting Internet acquaintances in person, being exposed to sexually explicit and hateful material and sharing personal information.
Young Canadians in A Wired World: The Students' View, examines the extent to which Canadian youth are engaging in risky behaviours on the Net and the positive impact that parental guidance and involvement can make. Results gleaned from this survey will play an integral role in shaping public policy on safe, wise and responsible Internet use in Canada and constitute a key component of the Government of Canada's Cyberwise Strategy. The Government of Canada funded the survey as part of its five-point strategy to deal with illegal and offensive content on the Internet.
"We are concerned about the extent to which Canadian children and youth are putting themselves at risk. At the same time, we're heartened by the fact that parental involvement, supervision and rules around the Internet appear to have an impact on children's behaviour," says Jan D'Arcy, MNet Co-Director. "This is one of the reasons why MNet has developed its national Web Awareness Canada program and established active partnerships with public libraries, educators and community leaders to deliver Internet education to parents and young people."
While the majority of younger children aged nine to 12 years of age using chat rooms are doing so in a safe manner, more than half of the older children, aged 13 to 17, are going into private and adult-only chat rooms. Across all age categories, boys are more likely than girls to visit private and adult-only chat rooms as are children who have no household rule relating to this behaviour. The vast majority of children who visit private and adult-only chat rooms do so when they are alone.
Fifteen per cent of children and youth who have used the Internet have gone to meet with someone in person that they had only previously ever talked with on the Internet. Of those respondents, fifteen per cent went alone to such a meeting. More males (73%) than females (27%) were likely to put themselves at risk in this way.
Results from the survey also reveal that children rely on their friends or their own ingenuity, rather than adults, when dealing with sexually explicit or hateful material. Of the youth who have received pornographic junk mail, 78% did not tell their parents. Similarly, 35% of respondents who report receiving hateful e-mails about others did nothing about it while 29% of those respondents replied to the e-mails themselves.
The survey also shows that Canadian children and youth do not appreciate the importance of safeguarding their personal information. In fact, 21% of young Internet users indicated they would give out both their name and address in order to win a prize in a contest. Again, boys are more likely than girls to give out this information.
The likelihood of children and youth engaging in risky behaviour on the Internet is closely tied to parental involvement and supervision of a child's online activities. The majority of youth who visit private and adult-only chat rooms, for example, indicate that they are at home but unsupervised when using the Internet (85%) and that they have no household rule relating to this practice (82%).
This data complements earlier findings that focused on parents' perceptions of their children's Internet use. That data showed that the majority of young people are ahead of their parents in their knowledge and exploration of the Internet and that young people are often on their own when they go online.
MNet's Web Awareness Canada program offers a wide range of resources. These and other resources can be found online at: www.media-awareness.ca/english/special_initiatives/web_awareness/. MNet is a key partner in the Government of Canada's Cyberwise Strategy launched earlier this year.
For more information on the survey , including key findings, the full report, and related Web Awareness resources, visit: www.media-wareness.ca/english/research/YCWW/phaseI/students.cfm.
For more information, contact:
Media Awareness Network
Tel: (613) 224-6892
Media Awareness Network
Tel: (613) 224-3271
Media Awareness Network
Tel: (613) 224-7120
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