mECPS: Jenna Shapka, Professor, HDLC

The mECPS digital feature series shares the stories of ECPS students & faculty. ECPS is home to world-class learners and educators, each of whom offers something unique to tell. Through these stories, we can learn more about each other and the resources that exist around us, and create community-building conversations.

Tell us about how first began with ECPS!

When Dr. Jenna Shapka read the posting for a faculty opportunity with ECPS, she knew immediately that the position was a great fit for her. The opportunity was too good to be true; the research focus was in line with her expertise and it was even located in Vancouver, B.C. near to her family home. Unfortunately, the timing wasn’t ideal as she was still six months away from completing her Ph.D. in Applied Developmental Psychology at OISE at the University of Toronto. Jenna decided to take her chances on an application despite the poor timing. To her surprise, she was offered an interview, and the department held the position until she was able to start and welcomed her to ECPS with enthusiasm.

How has your research changed and developed over your career?

Jenna’s research took a turn when she arrived at ECPS. This was largely influenced by the fact that she was able to spend more time with her family when she moved back to B.C. There is a 13-year age gap between Jenna and her younger brother; he was 17 at the time she returned from university with her Ph.D. Jenna remembers watching him work at the family’s desktop computer. He was chatting with a friend online; his fingers were flying on the keyboard. He was comfortable, laughing, and truly enjoying his digital company. Though he was normally quite shy, his personality thrived when he was online. Her observations revealed to her that technology had dramatically changed the way her brother engaged with the world, and with the development of the internet, his experience growing-up had become vastly different than hers. Instantly, Jenna was fascinated with how kids become interested in and interact with technology, and how it influences their developmental outcomes.

Where are your sights set now?

On September 11, Jenna launched a parenting resource website dedicated to kids and technology with a specific focus on cyber-bullying: She was asked by PREVnet, Canada’s leading authority on bullying prevention, in partnership with Primus, a Canadian communications provider, to be the lead in creating the online resource. With the help of her students, Jenna led the team through the enormous undertaking of researching existing cyber-bullying websites and rating each against 43 designated criteria. They discovered there was a niche, as well as a need, for an empirically-sound, cyber-bullying site that provided parents with access to the best information. Once they had surveyed the current sites, they directed their attention to parents. The team surveyed what parents wanted from an online resource, and based on their findings, completed a full literature review, and developed their new website on a much stronger, research-based foundation. Once completed, they showcased the site to three focus groups consisting of 8-10 parents. They made adaptations and adjustments with their feedback and finalized the project.

This project accomplished exactly what it set out to achieve: to accumulate and compile a body of knowledge into one amazing parenting resource. In recent years, academia has pushed for knowledge mobilization; however, until this experience, Jenna admits she hadn’t been as effective as she could have been. In her previous work, she wasn’t exposed to the hands-on experience of working directly with industry partners to build out an extensive web project. For Jenna, being able to connect research findings to the people that need and use it by developing the website was an incredible experience.

So what’s next?

Now that the website is live, Jenna is committed to updating and maintaining the resource. She’ll be creating content, blogging regularly, and continuing to build their audience to ensure the resource is available to parents around the world. Her research focus on children and technology is far from over, as she’s currently writing a grant proposal that will look at how children self-regulate their technology use and will investigate what factors are involved in bringing children to the decision to use it. It’s a fascinating line of inquiry; if the grant is approved, although it’s focus is specifically on kids, the findings may also speak to the motivations of many generations at the same time.

Congratulations on the launch of your website, Jenna – the project is hard-work realized and will be an incredible resource for our community. Thank you again from all of us at ECPS!

Visit and let us know what you think!