Research and Evaluation at MediaSmarts
Young Canadians in a Wireless World
Young Canadians in a Wireless World (YCWW) 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. You can find all YCWW research reports here.
The findings from YCWW are used to set benchmarks for research on children’s use of the internet, technology and digital media and inform policy on the digital economy, privacy, online safety, online harms and digital well-being, digital citizenship and digital media literacy, among other topics.
They have also been instrumental in developing MediaSmarts’ USE, UNDERSTAND & CREATE: Digital Literacy Framework for Canadian Schools. This research study informs other projects at MediaSmarts and other organizations, including academic institutions, within our vast and growing network of research partners.
YCWW is currently in its fourth phase. Phase IV 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 the internet (since 2000) from a ‘wired’ to ‘wireless’ world that presents new opportunities and challenges for youth, parents/guardians, educators, policymakers and the technology sector.
Check out the latest YCWW report:
Young Canadians in a Wireless World, Phase IV: Life Online
This first report – Life Online – highlights findings related to device use, online activities, screen time, technology in the classroom, household rules, and how young people feel about unplugging and going offline occasionally.
Summary of research phases:
Phase IV (2019-2022) began in 2019 with a series of 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 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 we administered in 2021 to students in grades 4 to 11 from across Canada. Findings will be shared in a series of research reports, beginning with a snapshot of Life Online for young Canadians, and covering topic like: handling online problems, privacy, online meanness and cruelty, sexting, digital media literacy, and concluding with trends and recommendations.
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.
Phase II (2004-2005) involved 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 I 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”.