Young Canadians in a Wireless World, Phase IV: Digital Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship

Cover - Digital Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship

Young Canadians in a Wireless World (YCWW) is Canada’s longest-running and most comprehensive research study on young people’s attitudes, behaviours, and opinions regarding the internet, technology, and digital media. MediaSmarts has surveyed over 20,000 parents, teachers, and students through this study since 1999.  

The findings from YCWW are used to set benchmarks for research on children’s use of the internet, technology, and digital media and have informed policy on the digital economy, privacy, online safety, online harms and digital well-being, digital citizenship, and digital media literacy, among other topics. This research is also used to inform other projects at MediaSmarts and at other organizations, including academic institutions, within our vast and growing network of research partners.  

The study is currently in its fourth phase. In 2019, MediaSmarts’ research team conducted focus groups to get a kid’s-eye-view of what is working for young people online and what needs to be changed or improved so that they get the most out of their online experiences. Focus groups with parents helped to round out discussions about what is needed to foster collective online resiliency. This qualitative work helped us prepare for a quantitative survey that began in 2021.  

We designed two surveys to explore the attitudes, activities, benefits, and challenges young people hold and experience when they are online and using digital devices – one for students in grades 4 to 6 and one for grades 7 to 11. We administered these surveys to 1,058 youth from across Canada between September and December of 2021. For more detailed information about our research methods, please read this report.

This sixth report – Digital Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship – presents findings related to digital media literacy and digital citizenship. We share findings related to verifying information online, learning digital media literacy skills, and ethical digital citizenship. Data collected in Phase IV of YCWW helps us better understand how young Canadians determine the reliability of the sources they come across online and whether they understand the benefit of some verification practices over others. This report also includes a brief case study on whether youth understand the business model and general operation of search engines like Google. We speak to the digital media literacy skills young Canadians are learning, from whom, and what skills they are interested in learning more about. Knowing more about how youth navigate and participate in online spaces gives us some insight into their ability to actively and positively participate in online communities as digital citizens. This report also solidifies the need for a national strategy to prioritize digital media literacy education in classrooms and communities across Canada.

The infographic below summarizes the key findings from the YCWW Phase IV Digital Media Literacy and Digital Citizenship report.