A new survey of more than 1,000 Canadian
youth aged 9-17 by Microsoft Canada Co. and Youthography provides insight into
the way young people use the Internet. The results show that while the
Internet is an overwhelmingly positive force in the lives of Canadian youth
and most of them are aware of potential dangers, too many children and teens
still engage in risky behaviour while online.
For the most part, youth rely on the Internet to communicate with friends
and family, research information for homework and play games. They are
concerned about Internet safety and more than three-quarters of them are very
careful about the personal information they give out online.
Parents are also becoming more engaged in their children’s online
activities, compared to previous findings, with 84% of respondents saying they
have had a discussion with their parents about the potential dangers of risky
online behaviour. Eighty-six percent say their parents have taken measures to
ensure they are safe online, such as locating the computer in visible
locations like the family room or kitchen, rather than in a child’s room.
Despite this high level of awareness and parental engagement, many youth
still engage in risky online behaviour. The survey identified a number of key
areas where Canadian youth continue to put themselves at risk, including:
– Youth post personal information for public view, such as a profile
picture (39%), home town (16%), name of school (20%), relationship
status (22%), and e-mail address (21%) to social networking sites.
Sharing more than one of these pieces of data can allow predators to
easily uncover someone’s real identity.
– 30% of youth have lied about their age on a social networking site,
15% have pretended to be someone they are not, and more than 30% have
accepted a friend request from a stranger.
Adult Content and Sexual Behaviour
– 1 in 4 males use search engines to find adult sexual content.
– More than 20% of youth visit sites that have pictures or videos
showing violent acts, fighting, or racist content.
– 40% of youth have been bullied online, up from Microsoft’s research
in 2004 where 25% respondents reported being cyberbullied. 16% admit
to being the bully and of those, 50% say they did it because they
were bullied first.
– In general, 67% believe others bully online because they can do it
without getting caught and 63% believe that the same kids who bully
online usually bully in person.
– 1 in 5 of those who play games in online communities has made contact
(phone, email, in-person) with someone they have only ever met online
– 1 in 4 youth has been harassed when online gaming.
– Forty-five percent of teens and 27% of tweens go to cyberspace to
escape their problems, avoid family, deal with stress, relieve
anxiety, deal with sadness or depression or feed their online
– Youth, especially tweens are concerned about online safety, more so
than drugs, alcohol, smoking, body image or sexually transmitted
“This is Microsoft Canada’s fourth iteration of online safety research
and we believe this study offers one of the most comprehensive looks yet at
the online activities of Canadian youth including gaming, cyberbullying and
social networking,” said Gavin Thompson, Director of Corporate Citizenship,
Microsoft Canada. “There are many encouraging results in the research,
including the fact that youth rank online safety as a very important issue and
that a majority of youth are making smart choices online. Despite this good
news, many youth still engage in risky online behaviour. Microsoft Canada has
made online safety and security one of our highest priorities and we recognize
that as a leader in our industry we have a responsibility to do all we can to
make it a safer place – especially for our children.”
“It is important for parents to be involved in their children’s lives,
which includes their on-line and videogame activities, as much as knowing
about their friends, sports, music lessons and other things going on in their
lives. It is also important to educate youth about the positives and the
pitfalls of the cyberworld – but to do so, adults need to understand it first
and to see how it has influenced their own activities, family values and work
actions,” said Dr. Bruce Ballon, Head of the Adolescent Clinical Education
Service (ACES) for Problem Gambling, Gaming and Internet Use at the Centre for
Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH).