Young Canadians in a Wireless World, Phase IV: Relationships and technology: Sexting

Cover of YCWW, Phase IV: Relationships and technology: Sexting Report

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 fifth report – Relationships and technology: Sexting – is the second of two reports focusing on relationships and technology. We share findings related to sending, receiving, and forwarding sexts and highlight what the YCWW Phase IV survey data tells us about young Canadians’ motivations and attitudes for engaging in sexting. We also speak to the role of trust and support in sexting behaviours among youth, focusing specifically on the impact of adult involvement and supervision and the desire for further educational support on this topic. Finally, we share resources that are currently available on the MediaSmarts website regarding sexting and highlight current research in the field that expands upon what we offer in this report.  

Within the Phase IV YCWW survey, questions related to sexting were only available to participants in grades 7 to 11 (n=659). Overall, the sample size for youth who indicated they engaged in sexting was very small; in most cases, n=110 or less.

The infographic below summarizes the key findings from the YCWW Phase IV Relationships and technology: Sexting report.