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Prevention of cyber abuse

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Child participation in Internet safety interventions does not change risky online behaviour, according to a new Campbell review.

The Internet has created a new communication tool, particularly for young people. Worldwide, the use of e-mail, websites, instant messaging, web cams, chat rooms, social networking sites and text messaging is exploding. While there are many benefits that result from electronic based communication, the Internet is at the same time a potential site for abuse and victimization. Young people can fall victim to sexual perpetrators, stalkers, exploiters, and peers who bully online. Interventions against cyber abuse have been developed in response to the growing need to protect children and youth from online dangers.

The authors of a new Campbell review examined the effectiveness of cyber abuse interventions in increasing Internet safety knowledge and decreasing risky online behaviour. Having identified more than 3,000 potentially relevant studies, only three met the authors' eligibility criteria and were included in the review: an evaluation of the I-SAFE cyber safety program, an evaluation of the Missing cyber safety program, and an evaluation of an in-school cyber bullying intervention (HAHASO).

Results provide evidence that participation in psycho-educational Internet safety interventions is associated with an increase in Internet safety knowledge; but it is not significantly associated with a change in risky online behaviour. The need for further research in this field is highlighted.

This article is based on the systematic review (access full text version): Mishna F, Cook C, Saini M, Wu M-J, MacFadden R. Interventions for children, youth, and parents to prevent and reduce cyber abuse