Australia, April 5, 2011Research released today by the Cooperative Research Centre for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing (YAW-CRC) has shown that young people are much better equipped to deal with online risks than adults assume and that young people themselves are the most valuable resource for adults concerned about the online safety of their children.

The research also reveals significant benefits to young people through social networking, which helps them to build relationships with the world around them and increases their sense of community and belonging.

Researchers from the University of Western Sydney, Murdoch University and the Inspire Foundation released the first two reports of the YAW-CRC. The research consists of a Literature Review on the Benefits of Social Networking Services and the results of a Living Lab study on Intergenerational Attitudes towards Social Networking and Cybersafety in which researchers supported a group of young people as they developed and delivered a cybersafety education workshop for a group of parents with teenage children.

Associate Professor Jane Burns, CEO of YAW-CRC says “This research has shown that young people are experts in the digital space. The Literature Review shows that social networking services can benefit young people who use them. The Living Lab empowered young people and showed that with support young people are an excellent source of information and education for parents seeking to understand cyber-safety.”

The Literature Review revealed that, despite a public focus on the negative aspects of social networking, there are significant benefits to social networking, including:

  1. Enhancing young people’s education;
  2. Supporting their personal relationships;
  3. Giving them safe opportunities to explore their identity; and
  4. Increasing their sense of community and belonging.

“In the Living Lab we inverted the usual power relationships that underpin cybersafety education. Instead of charging adults with the responsibility of educating young people about cybersafety, we put young people in charge” says Dr Amanda Third from the University of Western Sydney.

“Our research has shown that young people have an incredible amount of expertise. With support they can be an excellent source of information and education for parents seeking to realistically assess the cybersafety risks their children face.”

The research concluded that the youth-led workshop proved to be an effective way to respond to parents’ concerns about cybersafety. Parents reported that having access to the expertise of a young person not only helped them understand what young people are doing online but also gave them a new appreciation of the benefits of social networking for young people, skilled them in the use of the technology and encouraged them to have more productive cybersafety conversations with their own children.

“It was really fantastic to have a young person who was able to show me the techniques that she uses to be able to block, or filter or manage her online relationships.” said Maxine, parent and research participant.

The research also revealed that maximising the benefits of social networking services and promoting internet and media literacy is likely to help young people manage many of the risks of online interaction, such as cyberbullying, privacy breaches and predation.

The CRC for Young People, Technology and Wellbeing will be officially launched later in 2011 and intends to take up large-scale research in this area. The establishment of the CRC gives researchers an unprecedented opportunity to investigate the issues relating to young people’s technology use and will leverage a wide range of both academic and practitioner expertise, as well as the expertise of young people.

“Technology and online social networking is an integral part of life for the majority of young Australians. Young people don’t differentiate between their online and offline worlds. It’s essential that parents talk to young people about what they do online and how they keep themselves safe” concludes Burns.

1. Digital Dialogues

2. Highlights from the Literature Review

3. Top 5 things parents should know about young people online

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Media Contact

Danielle Roddick
Senior Media Officer
Office of Public Affairs
Division of International and Development
University of Western Sydney

P: (02) 9678 7086
M: 0414 308 701
E: [email protected]

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