New research on youth and cyberbullying released for Pink Shirt Day

Media Smarts
MediaSmarts is Canada’s charitable centre for digital media literacy. For over 27 years, MediaSmarts has advanced digital media literacy in Canadian schools, homes and communities.
Montreal - Tuesday, February 21, 2023

New research conducted during the pandemic by MediaSmarts found 32% of young Canadians ages nine to 17 have experienced online meanness and cruelty, 49% have witnessed it, and 17% have engaged in this behaviour.  

In time for Pink Shirt Day (Anti-Bullying Day) on February 22, these findings are being released in MediaSmarts’ new Online Meanness and Cruelty report. It’s the fourth in a series of reports from the latest phase of Young Canadians in a Wireless World, a national survey of 1,058 youth ages 9 to 17 conducted in Autumn 2021.  

This research highlights how often and where youth experience, witness and engage in online meanness and cruelty and the reasons why they engage in it. It also investigates how youth respond to online cruelty and where they go for support in navigating these harmful experiences. The study found that: 

  • Youth who experience online meanness or cruelty are also more likely to engage in it. They’re also more likely to say they’ve seen racist or sexist content online 
  • While most youth (64%) respond after witnessing someone else experiencing online cruelty, they're less likely to do anything when it happens to themselves 
  • Having household rules related to technology makes it less likely that youth will engage in online cruelty and more likely that youth will ask for help when dealing with it 
  • When screen time is managed with technology, young people are more likely to experience, witness or engage in online cruelty 
  • These are the top places youth experience online meanness and cruelty:
    41% online gaming
    37% text or private message
    26% posts and comments on social media 

More findings are available here

“This new research shows that we can’t oversimplify how youth experience or engage in online meanness and cruelty. It’s also unrealistic to suggest youth simply stop using devices or platforms as a solution,” says Dr. Kara Brisson-Boivin, Director of Research at MediaSmarts. “Instead, we need to provide all young people with resources that help them interact with each other from a place of empathy. Trusted adults also need guidance on how to stay involved and engaged in their kids’ digital lives - without using technology to spy on them.”  

Online Meanness and Cruelty is part of Young Canadians in a Wireless World (YCWW), Canada’s longest running and most comprehensive research study on young people’s attitudes, behaviour and opinions regarding the internet, technology and digital media. Reports based on the Phase IV data are being released from November 2022 to June 2023 including Life OnlineEncountering Harmful and Discomforting ContentOnline Privacy and Consent, Sexting (May 2023) and Digital Media Literacy (June 2023). 

Phase IV of the Young Canadians in a Wireless World study was possible thanks to funding from CIRA.  

MediaSmarts is Canada’s charitable centre for digital media literacy. For over 27 years, MediaSmarts has advanced digital media literacy in Canadian schools, homes and communities. 

Contact :

Tricia Grant
Director of Marketing & Communications
Directrice du marketing et des communications

MediaSmarts | HabiloMédias
205 Catherine Street, Suite 100
Ottawa, Ontario  K2P 1C3

Tel.: 613-224-7721 ext. 231 

Toll-free: 1-800-896-3342 


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