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Letter of Information

If you are interested in participating in our study, kindly read the following letter carefully.

Kaitlynn Mendes, PhD

University of Western Ontario


Alexa Dodge, PhD

Saint Mary’s University


Christopher Dietzel, PhD

Concordia University


Professor Suzie Dunn

Dalhousie University

1. The Study

You are being invited to participate in a research study that looks at how young people like you experience some types of harm online, including sexual or gender-based violence and harassment. This could include things like getting sent sexual images you don’t want, being called discriminatory names, or having people slut shame you. You are getting this letter because you showed interest in being part of our study, are between the ages of 13-18, and live in Alberta, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Ontario and Yukon.  


If you want to take part in this study, click here and complete the form. We don’t need your parents’ permission, but if you want to talk to them about it or they want more information, click here



2. Why is this study being done?

While social media, online gaming, and group chats can be fun and helpful for young people, they are also spaces where harmful things can happen. For example, people might say or do mean things that are racist, sexist, homophobic or discriminatory in some way. They might pressure you to share nude images, or take or share intimate pictures without permission. Or they might make fake accounts to bully others or make fun of them.


In this study, we want to learn more about things that can be harmful when young people like you go online. We also want to find ways to help young people like you deal with and prevent these problems. This includes making changes to how schools teach these issues and how communities support young people impacted by online harms. We want to learn what you think and know about online harms by talking to you in an interview. The interview can be between you and the researcher, or as part of a larger group.


Our discussion will focus on three areas: first, we want to learn about the types of behaviours young people like you have seen, heard of, or experienced online that are harmful. Second, we want to know what you (or others) did when these things happened. And third, we want to know what you would like to happen in this situation and what kind of help you or others need if this happens again.


We, the researchers, want to better understand the harmful behaviours you see online so that we can help stop harmful things from happening, make sure everyone knows how to handle these problems, and ensure young people have the supports they actually want and need to deal with these issues. We will use our research to create helpful resources for young people like you, as well as teachers, scholars, and people who make rules or policies related to online harms. We believe that these supports, rules, and policies can only be helpful if we understand the perspectives of young people on what they experience online and what they need to feel more supported.

3. What will you need to do for the study?

If you agree to take part in the study, you will be asked to schedule a one-on-one interview or join a group interview (also called a focus group or talking circle) at a time that works best for you. These meetings will be in person in a private room in a publicly available space, like at a room in a library or a community center. In exceptional cases, we might also hold the meeting online using a video call (via Zoom). If you agree and give us permission, we will record our conversation. But if you don’t want to be recorded, that is totally fine! You can still take part in the study, and we will take notes of what you say. All of the recordings will only be accessible to our research team and will be stored on a secure and password protected server. All the information we collect will be anonymized so your identity and the information you share with us will be kept private.


The individual or group interview will take around 45 to 90 minutes. After the interview is over, you are welcome to contact us with any questions. After we have collected and looked at all the information, you can ask us for the results of what we found, if you're interested. But this is completely up to you.


During the research, we will ask a series of questions when you have seen, heard, or experienced online harms. We will also ask for details about what you witnessed, heard, or experienced, the impact it has had on you, and if you knew any rules about it – such as, do you think it broke any laws, violated the rules of social media, or the rules at your school. We will also ask about what you did when it happened, what or who helped you, and who or what you think could have helped. We might do some activities too, like writing ideas on sticky notes and flashcards or making up scenarios. All the things you share and do will be important for our research.


4. What are the risks of participating in this study?

It's important to know that talking about the things that happened to you online might make you feel some strong emotions. You might feel angry, sad, confused, unsure, or have other feelings too. If you ever want to talk to someone who can help with these emotions, below is a list of professionals you can talk to.


Mental Health:


LGBTQ+ organisations:


Indigenous organisations:

  • First Nations and Inuit Hope for Wellness Help Line - 1-855-242-3310.


Online abuse resources:

  • Crash override is a crisis helpline, advocacy group and resource center for people who are experiencing online abuse -

  • Right To Be's storytelling platform is a safe space where you can share your harassment story, get support, and help others experiencing harassment -

5. What are the benefits of participating in this study?

By joining this study, you might not see any personal benefits, but your participation can make a big difference for others. The information we gather will help us learn how to handle online harms. This will make the online world safer and better for everyone.


6. Can participants choose to leave the study?


You have the right to stop participating and leave the study at any time through the interview, focus group, or talking circle. If you decide to leave the study within six months after the interview, focus group, or talking circle is finished, you can also ask us to delete any information we collected about you. It's your right to make that request.


Although unlikely, the researchers might need to stop someone from participating in the study. This would only happen if we feel someone is too upset to continue or is not following the rules we set at the beginning.



7. How will participants’ information be kept confidential?

All information collected will remain confidential. This means that only the people working on this study will know things like your name, age, location, and email, and that we will not use this information when we publish or talk about the results. We will make sure to take out any details that could identify you, like your name, your friends’ names, and the names of places or schools. If you would like to receive a copy of any study results, please contact Kaitlynn Mendes by email at


We want you to know that in most cases we will keep everything you say private. However, there are some cases where the laws require us to tell the authorities if you or someone else might be in danger. For example, if you say you are being abused by someone and aren’t safe or if you plan to hurt yourself or someone else. We have a responsibility to make sure everyone stays safe.


The researchers will keep any personal information about you in a secure and secret location for a minimum of 7 years. Before the research begins, you will be asked to give a fake name – known as a “pseudonym.” This pseudonym will be associated with your name in a secure file accessible only to the people working on this study. We will use your pseudonym or talk about everyone's information together in aggregate form when we share the results.


We will save the audio-recording file and the written version of what we talked about using your pseudonym. We will delete the audio recordings once we have written them down. If you choose not to be audio-recorded, the notes taken during the research will be destroyed once transcribed. It is important to note that a record of your participation might need to be kept, and as such, the researchers may not be able to destroy your signed letter of information and consent or your name. However, if you want, we can remove any other data we have about you within six months after you took part in the research.


If you want to leave the study within six months after your interview, you can email the researchers mentioning your pseudonym. We will then remove and delete all the information associated with your interview, focus group, or talking circle. Everything will be kept safe on a special locked server at the University of Western Ontario. When the project is done, we will keep all the information on Borealis, a secure vault for research data. All the names and personal information will be taken out. Only members of the research team will have access to this information. People from The University of Western Ontario Non-Medical Research Ethics Board might need to see the records to make sure everything is being done properly.


We want to let you know that we will do our best to keep everything you say confidential. But, if you join a focus group or talking circle, it is tricky to guarantee that everything will stay between the people participating in these activities. So, we need your help too! It is really important to respect the privacy of everyone in the group. That means not talking about what others said to people outside of the group.

8. What will we do with the information we collect?

The information we collect from this research, such as the topics we talk about or things you create, will be analyzed by our research team. We will use this information to develop an online questionnaire that we will distribute to young people like yourself across Canada in the next 12 months. We want to share what we find with different groups, like other researchers, teachers, and even the public. We might write articles, go to conferences, and make a website to show what we discovered. But we will take out any personal information and make everything anonymous. We might even use actors to read out what you said or show pictures of the things you made, but nobody will know it is from you.



9. Are participants getting paid to be in this study?

After you finish the interview, focus group, or talking circle, you will receive $20 in cash as a thank-you for participating. Even if you decide to leave the study part-way through, you will still get the $20.



10. What are the rights of participants?

Being part of this study is your choice. You can decide if you want to join or not. Even if you say yes, you still have the right to skip any question you do not want to answer or leave the study whenever you want. It is all up to you! Remember, signing the consent form does not mean you give up any of your legal rights.



11. Who do participants contact with questions?

If you need more information about this research or study, you can contact Dr. Kaitlynn Mendes by email at If you have any questions about your rights as a participant or how the study is being done, you can contact The University of Western Ontario’s Office of Human Research Ethics 1-844-720- 9816, email:



12. What are our safeguarding procedures?

We take your safety and privacy very seriously. While the information you offer during the interview or focus group will be kept anonymous, if you tell us something that makes us worried about your safety, we might have to tell the appropriate authorities who can help. In addition, to keep you safe during the research, we have done three things: 1) Everyone in our team had a special background check by the police to make sure they are safe to work with teens like you; 2) We know the important rules about when and how we report something to the authorities if we're concerned; 3) We took special training from an expert who taught us how to handle any difficult situations related to sexual violence.


If you want to take part in this study, click here and complete the form. 

Funding provided by:

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