This report presents the findings of a nationally representative study whose purpose was to explore the experiences, attitudes, and behaviours of New Zealand teens about digital communications including harm and/or distress. It was conducted by Netsafe in partnership with the Ministry for Women (the Ministry).
While there is growing interest in examining young people’s experiences and use of digital technologies, including the challenges and risks teens face, evidence based on representative data in the New Zealand context has been unavailable.
The study focuses on the prevalence of New Zealand teens' experiences with a range of unwanted digital communications in the previous year and the impact these experiences had on them, both emotionally and in carrying out everyday life activities. It also describes teens’ responses, the effectiveness of their coping actions, and to whom they would turn for help in the future. The study reveals distinctive differences regarding experiences of harm and/or distress through unwanted digital communications among different sub-groups of the population surveyed. More noticeable are the varying experiences in the context of gender, with girls being more likely to experience disruptions in their everyday life activities and an emotional toll because of unwanted digital communications. These insights are consistent with key findings from Insights into Digital Harm: The Online Lives of New Zealand Girls and Boys, a qualitative study released last year by the Ministry in collaboration with Netsafe. Similar patterns have been identified in the context of participants’ ethnicity, disability and age.
The research technique for data collection was an online survey conducted with a sample of 1,001 New Zealand teens aged 14-17 years old and distributed on key demographic variables such as age, gender, disability, ethnicity and location. Fieldwork was conducted in the third term of the 2017 school year. Data collection and initial analysis was carried out by Colmar Brunton. Strict procedures were followed to ensure the protection of participants’ privacy and confidentiality. The margin of error of this study is +/- 3.1% on total results.
As digital technologies continue to evolve, so too will the ways young people engage with them. Further research will be required to fully explain new dimensions of the complex nature of teens’ and children’s interaction with their online environment.
We believe government agencies, online content and service providers, law enforcement, the research community, and the general public will find this report useful. The findings can contribute to the development of policies and practices that are intended to support New Zealand teens to safely take advantage of the benefits of digital technologies and online environments.