By Erin De Jong, Member of the PREVNet National Youth Advisory Committee

PREVNet and the National Youth Advisory Committee

nyacPREVNet is a network of organizations and researchers from around Canada, working together to stop bullying. The goal of PREVNet is to increase our understanding of bullying – so every child can learn, play, and live in safe and enriching environments.

PREVNet’s National Youth Advisory Committee (NYAC) was created in April 2013 as part of the Networks of Centres of Excellence Knowledge Mobilization initiative, through which PREVNet is committed to creating evidence-based bullying prevention strategies and materials by youth, for youth. PREVNet recruited youth members from its national partners: Canadian Red Cross, Jer’s Vision, Public Health Agency of Canada, Royal Canadian Mounted Police,

The Students Commission, Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, and YOUCAN.

The NYAC has been recently involved in a survey conducted by PREVNet researchers about youth, social media, and online safety. Some of the roles the NYAC members played in this survey were: (a) piloting the survey, (b) proving feedback on survey questions, research ethics application, and research methodology, (c) recruiting participants, and (d) providing input on the interpretation of the survey findings.

PREVNet National Youth Advisory Committee Members:

Cameron Aitken , Josh Chynces, Katey Darr , Kaitlyn Dashney, Erin deJong, Cheryl Dunn, Akash Gupta, Haley James, Inaara Jetha, Cheyanne Ratnam, Ally Shikaze, Eva von Jagow, Mathieu Walsh-Moreau, Shannon Walsh

PREVNet Social Media and Safety Survey

The social media and safety survey was part of a research initiative aimed at understanding how young people use social media, especially regarding online safety and bullying. Youth between the ages of 13-25 were recruited online to fill out a 15-minute survey. 770 youth participated: 70% were female and 30% were male. 22% of the participants were between 13-15 years old, 48% were from 16-19 years old, and 30% were between 20-25 years old. The majority of the sample were Caucasian (71%) and from Canada (87%).

Results from the survey indicate that as many as 94% of online youth have a Facebook account, and more than 85% of online youth report using Facebook daily. This study surveyed a variety of topics and uncovered many noteworthy findings, some of which are presented in the table below.

Encouraging Findings

  • 98% of youth reported using privacy settings on social media
  • 70% of youth reported online abusive content when they saw it
  • 78% of youth reported they find social media reporting tools effective
  • 84% of youth who reported abusive content online did not experience any negative consequences for reporting

Less Favourable Findings

  • 31% reported having been cyberbullied within the past month; nearly 50% of youth under 15 reported having been cyberbullied in the last month
  • 41% of youth under 15 said they wouldn’t report online abusive content because they think the person they are reporting would find out (compared to only 29% of youth over 20)
  • Despite Facebook’s requirement for users to be over 13 years of age to register, 66% of youth users created a Facebook profile between the ages of 11-14
    • 6% were on Facebook before age 11

The results of this survey indicate that the majority of online youth are aware of and using privacy settings and reporting tools. However, there are still many youth who are not using these online safety tools, and a large percentage of youth report being cyberbullied. This suggests that more work needs to be done to prevent cyberbullying and to educate youth to use online privacy settings and other safety tools.

This research was preliminary in nature, and further research is needed to increase our understanding of the implications of these survey results. For example, future research could examine the relationship between age and the cognitive skills required to be responsible digital citizens (e.g., critical thinking skills, impulse control, comprehension of laws and human rights).

Social media is a pervasive force operating around the world, and online youth are not exempt from its influence. In an unprecedented way, today’s youth need to be socialized as good citizens of two worlds: the physical world around them and the cyber world. It is important to continue to conduct research that seeks to understand and promote online safety, which is exactly what the researchers at PREVNet and the NYAC plan to do!

© Media Literacy Week 2014
Semaine éducation médias 2014