Majority of Canadian parents need greater digital literacy support: study

Kid with iPad

A significant amount of Canadian parents say they need greater resources and tools to help them teach their children about digital literacy, according to a MediaSmarts study commissioned by Shaw Communications.

“More parents agreed (than disagreed) that they are poor role models when it comes to healthy digital technology habits for their child (infant to 15),” MediaSmarts lead researcher Dr. Kara Brisson-Boivin said in a press statement. “This is particularly true for parents of the youngest children. The findings in this study demonstrate how parents need to know their own patterns and habits because their kids are watching and emulating.”

To conduct the study, MediaSmarts hired Environics Research Group to conduct an anonymous, online survey in May 2018 among 825 Canadian parents or guardians with children up to 15 years old. MediaSmarts say it looked at even split between male and female parents across all provinces and territories that were both English and French speaking to get a wider understanding of parents’ digital literacy concerns.

“Parents need to be aware of their own tech habits and of the gap in digital and media literacy education for all ages,” said MediaSmarts’ executive director Kathryn Hill in a press statement. “We can provide more support for everyone in the family with our MediaSmarts teaching tools; parents can learn to build their skills together with their children as a family — we want parents to know they are not alone in this.”

Specifically, the study found that 80 percent of Canadian parents said they are concerned for their kids being exposed to misinformation online which extends beyond :fake news.” Further, 81 percent of parents stated that they think it’s very important for their child to be thinking critically about how they use digital devices. Part of the problem, according to these parents, is that social pressure regarding digital use may be too influential to kids outside of their family lives.

MediaSmarts says these concerns are the reason why it offers a variety of tools and resources on its website for parents to teach their kids about digital literacy.

“This research from MediaSmarts shows that families see the creative and educational benefits of digital technology, but see the challenges of managing their overall digital well-being,” said Katherine Emberly, president of Business, Brand and Communications at Shaw, in a press statement.

“This study and the tools that MediaSmarts has developed can help families, educators and policymakers better navigate our increasingly online lifestyle.”

The full report can be found here.