In April 2019, we published an article called, “Online Safety Advocates Can Sometimes Do More Harm Than Good.” (1) The catalyst for that blog was the fact that an online safety expert had posted an article to Facebook quoting a study that was factually incorrect. Well, it has happened again; this time from another person who identifies as a social media expert. Here’s their very recent Facebook posting:
The author also attached a CBC video (2), specific to how spyware was being installed by abusers on teen phones as a segway to cyberstalk their victims, even though the video was specific to adults and not teens.
On the Facebook feed, where this posting was published, a number of followers of this person had questioned the 1 in 5 statistic and asked the author if they could provide a source for this number. The expert then posted the following:
Given our background in law enforcement, academic research, and social media safety advocacy, we too had some concerns about the accuracy of the stat that this expert quoted. We decided to actually read the entire Statistics Canada report that can be found here (3).
The report found that 17% of the 15 to 29-year-old respondents were cyberbullied or cyberstalked. Given our background in law enforcement, academic research, and social media safety advocacy, we too had some concerns about the accuracy of the stat that this expert quoted. We decided to actually read the entire Statistics Canada report that can be found here (3) shared electronically.
As we continued to read this report, Statistics Canada found that of this 17%, a smaller cohort of 64% stated that they had been cyberstalked. Of this number, only 9.8% were under the age of 18 years of age.
So, given the above noted numbers, the statement “1 in 5 teens in Canada are being cyberstalked” is factually incorrect, and extremely misleading. It is also our belief that attaching the CBC video to the context of the posting, that was specific to adults and not teens, was also misleading. Teen digital relationship abuse via computers, cellphones, text messaging, and social networking websites are increasingly being used to monitor, threaten, and harass relationship partners, and is something that we speak to in our high school presentations. In fact, Dr. Sameer Hinduja and Dr. Justin Patching with the Cyberbullying Research Center (4) found that 11% of 12 to 17-year-old teens reported that they had experienced some form of digital relationship abuse in all its forms. So, is it a reality that spyware could be used by teen abuser? Yes. Having said this… is it a rarity? Such disinformation only feeds the flames of parental moral panic (juvenoia), specific to teens’ use of technology.
As we stated in our first article (1), don’t believe everything you read. This includes things we speak to in our written materials. Question facts that just don’t make sense and dig deeper. Reach out to those who actually believe in evidence-based social media safety and digital literacy research and ask their opinion. Knowledge and the understanding, application, and implementation of that knowledge is power!
Digital Food for Thought.