PRESS RELEASE: “Digital natives” turn to parents and teachers for digital literacy skills, new study finds (@MediaSmarts, #YCWW) #DigitalParenting

Well, we know what I think about the idea of a ‘digital native‘… I drew on Mediasmarts research in sections of my book, so was interested to see their latest research:


Ottawa, ON (March 31, 2014) – Canadian youth are not as digitally literate as adults may think they are, according to new research released today by MediaSmarts. Though today’s young people have grown up immersed in digital media, they still rely on parents and teachers to help them advance their skills in areas such as searching and verifying online information.

MediaSmarts, a Canadian not-for-profit organization, surveyed over 5,400 students in classrooms across the country on their Internet behaviours and attitudes for its Young Canadians in a Wired World study. The fourth report from the survey findings – Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’ Digital Literacy Skills – explores the level of young people’s digital literacy, how they are learning these skills and how well digital technologies are being used in classrooms to support digital literacy.

The research shows that although students are actively engaging with digital media through social networking, gaming and video streaming, they are learning and applying only the digital skills they consider essential to the context of the task. For example, across all age groups, youth use a variety of strategies to verify online information, but will often only put their skills to use if they see an immediate benefit to doing so, such as for a school project. Youth are eager to learn more skills, with teachers being one of their main sources of information; however, there are often technological barriers in the classroom such as blocked websites and a lack of access to digital devices.

“Young people are mistakenly considered experts in digital technologies because they’re so highly connected, but they are still lacking many essential digital literacy skills,” says Jane Tallim, Co-Executive Director of MediaSmarts, “Parents and teachers are playing a crucial role in teaching them to navigate the digital world, but we need to ensure that digital literacy programs reflect youth’s lived experiences so they will find the skills relevant enough to learn and apply them.”

Key findings include:

  • 53% of girls have learned how to search for information online from teachers compared to 38 percent of boys.
  • Parents (47%) and teachers (45%) are the main sources for learning about searching for information online.
  • 61% of students use more than one search engine to find information online.
  • 35% of students in grades 7-11 use advanced search engine tools.
  • 80% of students have received instruction in evaluating and authenticating online information.
  • 46% of students (29% in Grade 4 and 72% in Grade 11) agree with the statement, “Downloading music, TV shows or movies illegally is not a big deal”.
  • 36% say that they have had trouble finding something they need for their school work due to filtering software.
  • 41% of Grade 9 students say their teachers have used social media to help them learn.

To view the full report, infographic and slide show, visit Follow the conversation using hashtag #YCWW.

Young Canadians in a Wired World – Phase III: Experts or Amateurs? Gauging Young Canadians’Digital Literacy Skills was made possible by financial contributions from the Canadian Internet Registration Authority, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada and the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Previous reports based on the Young Canadians in a Wired World student survey data focused on cyberbullying, online privacy and online interactions. They can be downloaded at Future reports will look at offensive content and online relationships.


Young Canadians in a Wired World: Talking to Youth and Parents about Life Online


From the introduction:

This report sets out the findings of an exploratory qualitative research study that examined the attitudes and experiences of children, youth and parents relating to networked communications technologies. Using a semi?structured interview guide, we conducted a total of 12 qualitative group sessions in Calgary, Toronto and Ottawa, with young people ages 11?17 and with parents of children and youth ages 11?17. A total of 66 young people and 21 parents participated in this research.

Read full report (PDF).