Young Canadians in a Wireless World Overview

Young Canadians in a Wireless World (YCWW) – formerly known as Young Canadians in Wired World is Canada’s longest running, and most comprehensive research study on young people’s attitudes and behaviours regarding the internet, surveying over 20,000 parents, teachers, and students since 2000.

The findings from YCWW have been used to set benchmarks for research on children’s use of digital media and have informed policy setting on the digital economy, privacy, online safety, cyberbullying, ethical online use, and digital literacy and well-being among other topics. They have also been instrumental in the development of MediaSmarts’ USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools.

MediaSmarts is currently conducting Phase IV of YCWW. The findings from the focus groups is presented in the report Talking to Youth and Parents about Online Resiliency and a quantitative classroom survey is being conducted in late 2020. Phase IV also began with a name change to the study – from Young Canadians in a Wired World to Young Canadians in a Wireless World. This change in language speaks to shifts in digital technology and to the online world, (since 2000) from a ‘wired’ to ‘wireless’ world that presents new opportunities and challenges for youth, parents, educators, policymakers, and the technological sector.

All the YCWW research reports can be found here.

Previous phases of research:

Phase III (2011-2014) involved interviews with elementary and secondary teachers as well as focus groups with children ages 11-17. The quantitative component of Phase III involved 5,436 students from school boards and schools in all 10 provinces and all three territories.  In this phase, adults were beginning to feel overwhelmed by the reported dangers their children faced online, especially around cyberbullying. Youth participants indicated that cyberbullying was much less worrisome than adults feared; however, they felt they were being “spied on” by family members and teachers. They also argued that this kind of surveillance made it much more difficult for them to receive help from trusted adults when needed. Youth were also much less comfortable with the corporations that owned the sites and apps they used.

In Phase II (2004-2005), we conducted focus groups with children and parents. Additionally, surveys were conducted in French and English classrooms in schools across all regions of Canada with students in grades 4 to 11. We were pleased that 302 of the 319 original classrooms from Phase I were revisited for the quantitative surveys, allowing us to validate important trends. Although youth participants still enjoyed online activities, they were becoming aware of how often they were being monitored. In response, they developed several strategies to keep their online lives private. Adults, on the other hand, were beginning to conclude that young people were largely “wasting their time” playing games and chatting (precisely the things that drew youth online to begin with).

Phase I (2000-2001) of YCWW involved 1,081 telephone interviews with parents across Canada in addition to focus groups with children ages 9-16. The quantitative component of Phase 1 involved over 5,000 surveys conducted in French and English classrooms in schools across Canada. At the time, parents were excited about the prospects of having their children use new technologies to help them learn and prepare for their future of work; they tended to exercise a benign neglect online, trusting their children to come to them if they ran into problems. Youth participants felt that online media were completely private because adults didn’t have the skills to find them there and they enjoyed a wide range of creative uses such as identity play and exploring the adult world.  They also tended to trust corporations, calling them “friends”.

Read all the reports from YCWW Phase I to IV here.