Life online for young Canadians is more connected, more mobile, and more social

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Ottawa, ON (January 22, 2014) – Canadian children and teens are more connected to the online world than ever through a variety of portable devices, and more connected to others through social networking, according to new research released today by MediaSmarts. Although boys and girls have different experiences online, the Internet is an important source for seeking information, entertainment and socializing for all young Canadians.

MediaSmarts surveyed over 5,000 students in classrooms across the country on their Internet behaviours and attitudes, as part of Phase III of its Young Canadians in a Wired World study. The first report drawn from the survey, Life Online, looks at how youth access the Internet, their main activities and favourite sites, their attitudes towards online safety, household rules on Internet use and unplugging from digital technology.

One of the biggest changes since the survey was last conducted in 2005 is the proliferation of mobile devices, such as tablets, smartphones and MP3 players, which give youth constant – and often unsupervised – online access. The other big change is the growth in social networking, even among children too young to register for these sites: many of the sites that now dominate the list of students’ top 10 favourites – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr and Minecraft – were barely on the horizon, or didn’t exist, in 2005.

“We were surprised at the level of social networking, especially in the younger grades,” said Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts. “With many of these activities taking place on portable devices and fewer family rules about being online, there is a greater need for parents and teachers to educate young people about the issues around socializing and sharing online.”

Key findings include:

  • 32% of students in grades 4-6 have a Facebook account and 16% have a Twitter account, even though these sites are restricted to users 13 or older
  • Girls are significantly less likely than boys to see the Internet as a safe place
  • Students have fewer rules at home about what they can do online since 2005, but there is still a strong connection between having rules and fewer risky behaviours
  • Students like to stay connected: more than a third who own cell phones say they sleep with their phones. At the same time more than a third worry that they spend too much time online
  • One in six students has gone offline in order to avoid someone who is harassing them

To view the Life Online report, infographic, and slide show, visit

Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Life Online 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: privacy, digital permanence, bullying, commercialization, 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,