Canadian youth do more to protect their reputations than their information when they go online

Ottawa, ON (February 19, 2014) – Canadian youth worry about their online privacy and take steps to control who can see what they post, and more importantly, how other people see them, according to new research released today by MediaSmarts.

The not-for-profit organization 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. Online Privacy, Online Publicity, the second report from the survey, looks at the strategies young people use to control how they are represented online and how they protect their personal information.

Even the youngest students surveyed are sharing a substantial amount of information on social media sites. While students are willing to post information about themselves and their personal lives, the majority employ strategies to protect their privacy, including not posting their contact information, using a different identity, using privacy settings to block strangers, deleting something they posted or asking someone to delete something posted about them.

“While students have developed a number of strategies to help them manage their online reputations and stay safe, the research also shows that there are gaps in young people’s knowledge of online privacy,” says Cathy Wing, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. “Their limited understanding of geo-location services, privacy policies, data collection practices and password sharing issues, suggests we need more effective privacy education, both in homes and schools.”

Key findings include:

  • 97% of students would take steps to remove a photo they don’t want others to see.
  • 68% mistakenly believe that a site with a privacy policy will not share users’ personal information with others.
  • 59% would share the password to their social networking account, email account or cellphone. Girls are much more likely than boys to share their passwords.
  • The percentage of students who misrepresent their age online to register on a site rises from 18% in Grade 4 to 65% in Grade 11.
  • 28% say police should be able to read their social media posts.
  • Parents are students’ main source of information about online privacy protection.
  • 89% say it’s wrong for a friend to post a bad or embarrassing picture of them, and more than half think it’s also wrong for a friend to post a good picture of them without asking first.

To view the Online Privacy, Online Publicity report, infographic, and slide show, visit Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

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

Future reports based on this data will look at students’ habits, activities and attitudes towards: online harassment and bullying, offensive content, online relationships and digital literacy in the classroom and in the home.)


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

Maya Shoucair, Communications Officer, MediaSmarts
613-224-7721, ext. 231,