Eh Sayers Episode 17 - It's 8pm... Do You Know What Your Kids Are Googling?

Release date: April 12, 2024

Catalogue number: 45200003
ISSN: 2816-2250

It's 8pm... Do You Know What Your Kids Are Googling?

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StatCan released new analysis into the online culture our kids are growing up in, and it’s far from the best of all possible worlds: misinformation, bullying, violence… and worse.

Analyst Rachel Tsitomeneas joins us to dive into the findings.


Tegan Bridge


Rachel Tsitomeneas

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Eh Sayers Episode 17 - It's 8pm... Do You Know What Your Kids Are Googling? - Transcript

Tegan: Welcome to Eh Sayers, a podcast from Statistics Canada, where we meet the people behind the data and explore the stories behind the numbers. I'm your host, Tegan Bridge.

Listen, I'm not going to lie. I'm really glad that the Internet was a different place when I was a kid. I remember using online message boards: I was part of a community that talked about video games when I was a pre-teen. That was a kind of proto-social media, I suppose, but we didn't have smartphones. My first cell phone was a flip phone that lived in my backpack and was usually dead because it cost 15 cents to send one text message.

The Internet is not the same now as it used to be, and, I think it's an important point, even two people using the Internet at the same time, they're experiencing two different Internets: the sites you choose to visit, but even the same site might display different information to two different users: algorithms guessing what you want to see, what you might want to click on, what you might want to buy. Your Internet is not my Internet, and the Internet of today is definitely not the Internet of yesteryear.

StatCan recently released new analysis on the online environment and cyberaggression among young people. Joining us in the studio is that article's author.

Rachel: My name is Rachel Tsitomeneas and I am an analyst with Statistics Canada in the Center for Social Data Insights and Innovation.

Tegan: Are young people being exposed to more, shall we say, concerning content online compared to the average user?

Rachel: So, based on data from the 2022 Canadian Internet Use Survey, more than 8 in 10 Canadians who were age 15 to 24 saw information online in the year prior to the survey that they suspected to be false, which is considerably higher than the national average of 70%.

And misinformation can be as simple as giving somebody a wrong time or a date for a party, or it can go as far as becoming disinformation where it's intentionally weaponized and intends to mislead people and purposefully misstates facts.

And young people are seeing this more often, but they're also not as concerned about it as the rest of the population, which is quite interesting.

Tegan: If you're interested in misinformation, we did an entire episode about that called "A little less misinformation a little more true facts, please," but it isn't just misinformation that young people are seeing online.

Rachel: In the numbers that I have seen and in the research that I have recently done, I have found that young people are, in fact, seeing a lot more information and content that may incite hate or violence online than the rest of the population.

Tegan: This type of content might be things like terrorist content or violence towards ethnic groups. And young Canadians were more likely than any age group to see this content online: 71% compared to the national average of 49%.

People bring their whole selves online for better or worse, the good and the bad. What kind of aggressive behaviours do we see online?

Rachel: Aggressive behavior online definitely exists on a continuum: it starts with something as simple as bullying, name calling, teasing, and it can escalate all the way to a hate crime, which can be directed at individuals or groups of people. It's a criminal violation, and it's motivated by hate. It's based on race, language, colour, religion, sex, et cetera. And it can be taken that far online. So there's this whole big continuum, and youth, especially, are exposed to this because they're online so much more often than the rest of the population or older generations.

Tegan: So who's being targeted for bullying and who's being targeted for hate crimes? Is that the same population?

Rachel: It definitely is the same population, and what we found in the data, especially from the Uniform Crime Report, is that young people are definitely the most likely to be victims of online hate crime. And they're also the most likely to be the perpetrators of online hate crimes. The median age of victims of cyber related hate crimes was only 32 years old and the median age of cyber related hate crime perpetrators was only 27 years old.

There's some demographic differences in the types of victimization that people are experiencing. So, young women are often the most likely to be, um, bullied online in a sexualized nature, whereas just young people in general are going to be the victims and the perpetrators of hate crimes online.

Tegan: Young people, then, are both the victims of these online crimes, but they're also the ones we think are committing the crimes?

Rachel: Yeah, a lot of young people are being charged or suspected of committing cyber related hate crimes. A large chunk of people that were charged between 2018 and 2022 were younger people, you know, even between the ages of 12 and 17. So, so children were being charged with these crimes, but a very stark contrast in the perpetrators of cyber related hate crimes is between males and females. So, you know, between 2018 and 2022 again, 87% of the total people charged with or suspected of committing these types of crimes online were men or boys.

Tegan: What are some of the challenges in studying online interactions? Things like misinformation, bullying and hate crimes.

Rachel: The hard part about studying these online interactions is that it's so new. The internet, relatively speaking, is so incredibly new, and especially social media. So it's hard for us to figure out ways to, to collect data on these new and evolving, you know, spaces that people interact with each other and interact with media. So it's really hard for us to try and collect data in a way that's going to help us understand what's going on, and we don't really, uh, use a lot of web scraping and data, sciency type collection yet online. And we've relied really heavily on surveys for this type of data collection. The problem with relying on survey data all the time is that there's some limitations with that, as it's all self-reported data.

Tegan:  From the article that I read that was published a few weeks ago, it looked like it was also limited by police reported interactions.

So, the fact that it's police reported, if somebody, you know, calls me a mean word that you only use for women, you know, I'm not going to report that to the police, but that was certainly egregious behavior online.

Rachel: Absolutely. And that's, uh, that's where this continuum comes in again, from bullying to discrimination to hate crimes. People experience these types of things all the time, but when it comes to reporting to the police, there's a lot of limitations that people feel and that people have. They're, they're scared to report. They don't feel that they can trust authorities when they report. And so a lot of these, these instances go unreported. And so the numbers that we have are definitely underrepresenting what's actually happening.

Tegan: Why do these findings matter? Why is this important?

Rachel: These findings matter because we can see who views online hate content, who views and misinformation,  the types of people who are the perpetrators and are the victims of online hate crimes. And then we can better understand where we should be implementing policy and where we should be trying to help these people and provide resources to them or to try and, you know, encourage people to actually report when something like this happens to them.

Tegan: The findings also matter for well-being.

Rachel: So, recently, I actually have done some work that related, uh, hate crime rates and quality of life indicators. And so, what that research found is that, uh, census metropolitan areas with high rates of hate crime were actually associated with lower quality of life indicators, such as self-reported health, self-reported mental health, and knowing your neighbours.

So, I think that that is an interesting avenue that, uh, could definitely be explored more in the future.

Tegan: What's the biggest takeaway for you?

Rachel: Young people are both the victims and the perpetrators of cyber related hate crimes. And I think it really, um, points to the fact that we need to look at this demographic closer, and we need to understand why they are the victims, why they are the perpetrators beyond just that they're on the Internet more.

Tegan: Is there anything that you would have liked to include in this daily article that you weren't able to for whatever reason?

Rachel: I was going to say, I mean, I would have loved to include all the people that didn't report, but of course they didn't report.

I think that what I would have liked to include, but it just simply doesn't exist, is just more information on the types of content that young people are seeing online. So I would have loved to get more into the specifics of what young people thought as harmful or aggressive content online and really dig deeper into what they thought it was and how they experience it.

Tegan: You've been listening to Eh Sayers. Thank you to Rachel Tsitomeneas for taking the time to speak with us.

For more information on this topic, check out the article published in The Daily February 27, 2024, called "Online hate and aggression among young people in Canada."

You can subscribe to this show wherever you get your podcasts. There, you can also find the French version of our show, called Hé-coutez bien! If you liked this show, please rate, review, and subscribe. And thanks for listening!


The Daily - Online hate and aggression among young people in Canada