The report revealed a higher need for media literacy among Canadian youth. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Wilfredo Lee)

The report revealed a higher need for media literacy among Canadian youth. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Wilfredo Lee)

Majority of Canadian youth witness racism and sexism online: report

The study found that youth ages 12-17, are ill-equipped to respond to harmful content online

  • Dec. 7, 2022 5:10 a.m.

New Canadian research has found a concerning number of youth see racism or sexism online at least once a week, but are unsure what to do about it.

The research was conducted by MediaSmarts, a Canadian company that develops digital and media literacy programs.

The Encountering Harmful and Discomforting Content Online report found 47 per cent of kids ages 12-17 are confronted with content they would deem racist or sexist, at least once a week.

The survey is the second phase of a 2021 national survey called Young Canadians in a Wireless World.

This report aims to understand what youth are seeing online and how much of that content is harmful, or makes them uncomfortable, as well as where troubling content crops up the most and how youth are responding.

“This new research shows that while youth want to speak out and learn more about how to recognize and respond to harmful and hateful content online, there is a continued lack of knowledge and confidence to do so in ways that are safe and effective,” Kara Brisson-Boivin, the director of research at MediaSmarts, said in a statement.

While 88 per cent of participants said they feel it is important to fight racist and sexist rhetoric, 58 per cent reported they didn’t know how.

The report also found those with a disability and LGBTQ+ youth have a higher likelihood of encountering racism or sexism online.

Among respondents, 81 per cent felt that technology companies have a responsibility to censor racist and sexist content and most are not doing enough.

Additionally, 32 per cent of participants reported having seen pornography without seeking it out, with 60 per cent responding that pornographic content popped up on unrelated websites, 31 per cent claiming they saw it on search engines and 24 per cent saying friends shared it.

Further reports will be released by June 2023 and will look at topics including privacy, online bullying and sexting.

READ MORE: Kids need media literacy education to match the rise of social networks, says experts


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