CyberTalk

Online Communication and Social Development of Rural Adolescents in Alberta 2006-2008

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In a study of online communication, researchers examine technology usage and social patterns of 1752 adolescents attending Alberta's rural schools. The research question guiding this study is "What are the online behaviours and perceptions of rural youth in Alberta regarding access to technology, methods of online communication, online behaviours, and supervision, privacy, and safety?" Online technologies highlighted are five formats of online Internet and cellular phone communication, including emails, instant messaging, text messaging, chat rooms, and social networking profiles, such as blogs and personal web pages.

This study highlights many youths' lack of awareness about online safety. Only a small percentage of respondents report any adult supervision of their online activities. Researchers point to the need for frequent and sustained dialogue between adults and adolescents regarding safe protocols for online communication. The dynamics of adolescent online communities and how to better support adolescents as they navigate new online territories is discussed. Education is needed to address increasing use of online technologies to bully peers, school mates, and teachers.

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