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Interventions for children, youth and parents to prevent and reduce cyber abuse

Additional Info

  • Authors: Faye Mishna, Charlene Cook, Robert MacFadden, Michael Saini, Meng-Jia Wu
  • Published date: 2009-06-05
  • Coordinating group(s): Crime and Justice
  • Type of document: Review
  • See the full review: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.4073/csr.2009.2

About this systematic review

This Campbell systematic review examines the effectiveness of cyber abuse interventions in increasing internet safety knowledge and decreasing risky online behaviour. The review summarises findings from 3 studies: one conducted in Canada and the other two in the USA. The participants were middle school students in grades five to eight between the ages of 5-19 who use the internet or cell phones. A total of 2,713 participants were included in the studies.

What are the main results?

Cyber abuse interventions and preventions are associated with an increase in internet safety knowledge. Despite the increase in knowledge, students who received the intervention did not become less likely to engage in inappropriate online behaviour, such as disclosing one’s name, participating in open chat rooms, or emailing strangers.

The three studies were evaluations of the following cyber abuse interventions: I-SAFE cyber safety program, the missing cyber safety program, and the in-school cyber bullying intervention (HAHASO). The I-SAFE cyber safety had the largest effect on internet safety knowledge. Both the missing program and HAHASO suggests that intervention did not significantly change internet-related safety attitudes or reduce the number of reported cyber bullying experiences.

Given the low number of studies available for rigorous cyber abuse prevention and intervention evaluations, the evidence base for these conclusions is weak.

Background

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

Objectives

To examine the effectiveness of cyber abuse interventions in increasing Internet safety knowledge and decreasing risky online behaviour. The scope of this review is experimental and quasi-experimental prevention and intervention strategies that target children ages 5 to 19 years old and/or their parents, utilize a control group, and examine an outcome related to cyber abuse such as Internet safety knowledge, risky online behaviour, or exposure to inappropriate online content.

Selection criteria

The scope of this review is experimental and quasi-experimental prevention and intervention strategies that target children ages 5 to 19 years old and/or their parents, utilize a control group, and examine an outcome related to cyber abuse such as Internet safety knowledge, risky online behaviour, or exposure to inappropriate online content.

Search strategy

We searched the following databases : Psychological Abstracts (PsycINFO, PsycLIT, ClinPsyc-clinical subset) ; MEDLINE; EMBASE; Database of reviews of effectiveness (DARE online); ChildData (child health and welfare); ASSIA (applied social sciences); Caredata (social work); Social Work Abstracts; Child Abuse, Child Welfare & Adoption; Cochrane Collaboration ; C2-SPECTR; Social Sciences Abstracts; Social Service Abstracts; Dissertation Abstracts International (DAI). We also handsearched Youth and Society; Journal of Interpersonal Violence; Annual Review of Sex; Computers in Human Behavior; Computers & Education; and Journal of Adolescent Health. Additionally, we contacted experts in the field and searched for grey literature.

Data collection and analysis

Two screeners reviewed abstracts and full-text of all articles. Three articles met all inclusion criteria, and effect sizes and z-tests were calculated for all relevant outcomes.

Main results

Significant z-tests were found between pre- and post-test scores on measures related to Internet safety knowledge such as managing online risk and identifying online predators. Most tests related to pre and post measures of risky online behaviour were not significant, including disclosing one’s name, participating in open chat rooms, or emailing strangers.

Reviewers' conclusions

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

See the full review

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