New Canadian research reveals that parents need more resources and tools to become digital role models to kids

OTTAWA, ONTARIO, October 22, 2018– Technology is keeping families and households more connected than ever before but parents feel they need more resources to be better digital role models, according to the latest research on digital parenting and the digital well-being of Canadian families released today by MediaSmarts.

“More parents agreed (than disagreed) that they are poor role models when it comes to healthy digital technology habits for their child (infant to 15),” says lead researcher Dr. Kara Brisson-Boivin at MediaSmarts. “This is particularly true for parents of the youngest children.  The findings in this study demonstrate how parents need to know their own patterns and habits because their kids are watching and emulating.”

Funded by Shaw Communications, this research outlines the latest digital activities of Canadian families focusing on children up to the age of 15, the challenges parents are facing, and the steps they take to ensure their family’s balanced and healthy use of digital technology. 

“Parents need to be aware of their own tech habits and of the gap in digital and media literacy education for all ages,” says MediaSmarts’ Executive Director Kathryn Hill. “We can provide more support for everyone in the family with our MediaSmarts teaching tools; parents can learn to build their skills together with their children as a family – we want parents to know they are not alone in this.”

Among the key findings of this report:

  1. Families are digitally connected and much more so in the last five years. Access to digital devices and the impacts of digital activities in families is increasing.
  2. Families need greater digital literacy support: 
    Digital literacy and skill levels impact the rates at which parents implement rules or guidelines to manage their child’s use of devices/screen time. Four out of five parents (81%) emphasized the importance of their child thinking critically about how they used digital devices.
  3. Parents are moderate (or balanced) in their approach to digital parenting, but they are concerned about social pressures regarding digital use, and they feel social pressure to appear more strict.  
  4. Parents are digitally skilled. In fact, parents thought they were more digitally skilled than their children.
  5. 80% of parents are concerned about misinformation online for their kids which extends beyond just “fake news.”

“We had learned from previous research that misinformation has been on the minds of teens, and now we see parents are increasingly concerned with this as well,” says Dr. Brisson-Boivin. “This is the top parental concern and something new for us,”

This latest research, informs MediaSmarts’ evidence-based parenting tools and resources, which includes Tips for Safer Sharenting.  

As a major Western Canadian broadband company, Shaw Communications played an important role in developing this MediaSmarts research.

“This research from MediaSmarts shows that families see the creative and educational benefits of digital technology, but see the challenges of managing their overall digital well-being,” says Katherine Emberly, President, Business, Brand and Communications, Shaw. “This study and the tools that MediaSmarts has developed can help families, educators and policymakers better navigate our increasingly online lifestyle.”


About MediaSmarts: is the Canadian not-for-profit centre for digital and media literacy. Its vision is that children and youth have the critical thinking skills to engage with media as active and informed digital citizens. MediaSmarts offers hundreds of digital and media literacy resources for teachers, parents and educators on its website,

For example, for tips on screen time for parents see MediaSmarts’ 4' M's tool.

Melinda Thèriault
Marketing and Communications Assistant
613-224-7721 ext. 222