Internet Intervention Helps Educate Teens About Cyber Bullying

Knowledge is power. Providing children with information about the effects of bullying allows them to make informed decisions related to bullying. Aggressive language, physical harassment, abuse, and intimidation are just some ways that children bully each other. Victims of bullying are at risk for physical and psychological problems, including anxiety, fear, aggression, violence, self-harm, and substance abuse.

One specific type of bullying, cyber bullying, has become especially concerning and children and adolescents who are victims of cyber bullying are particularly vulnerable to depression and other negative psychological outcomes. With cyber bullying on the rise, every approach to minimize perpetration must be explored.

Ming-Shinn Lee of the Department of Curriculum Design and Human Potentials Development at National Dong Hwa University in Taiwan sought to assess the effectiveness of a new cyber-bullying education intervention known as WebQuest. The program is designed as a teaching program to aid students by engaging them in online activities that educate them about cyber-bullying. Lee enrolled 61 seventh grade students in the study and had 30 of them complete four weeks of the WebQuest program. The remaining 31 students did not participate in any educational or intervention program. At the end of the study period, Lee evaluated the students’ level of knowledge about bullying and their attitudes toward bullying behavior.

The results revealed that although WebQuest did effectively increase students’ awareness and knowledge related to cyber-bullying, it did nothing to change the attitudes they held toward that type of behavior. Surprisingly, even though the students’ intentions toward bullying were reduced and those positive effects were retained, the overall attitude toward bullying did not shift as a result of increased awareness.

Lee believes perhaps the short duration of WebQuest could explain this finding. Lee added, “It takes a long time to change the attitude towards cyber-bulling; therefore, it is not easy to change students’ attitudes toward cyber-bullying after only a four-week course.” Because this study was exploratory in nature, future efforts could consider these results as a foundation for studying longitudinal outcomes of more intensive bullying interventions that require longer adherence.

Lee, M-S., Zi-Pei, W., Svanström, L., Dalal, K. (2013). Cyber bullying prevention: Intervention in Taiwan. PLoS ONE 8(5): e64031. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0064031

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  • Rainbow

    June 12th, 2013 at 12:12 AM

    Good to see that knowledge increased.But really surprised that the attitudes didn’t change.Maybe it is the hard set prejudices?Or maybe these kids just didn’t think of it as something they ought to learn from, but only as an informational thing. Apathy seems to be the reason for this.

  • sienna r

    June 12th, 2013 at 4:10 AM

    I have to say, bullying has come a long way since I was in school, and not in a good way.

    Those people who are determined to ruin the lives of their peers via bullying? They have come up will all sorts of new ways to taunt their victims and I think that one of the most harmful is all of this that is going on online.

    And I think that there are many teens who are hesitant to talk about this because they think that saying something makes them weak. But they are not at an age yet to know that speaking out is the only thing that allows them to hold onto some power in these instances. The bullies are betting against this, that they WON”T say anything which leaves all of the power and control in their hands, not where it needs to be.

  • Bernie Dodge

    June 13th, 2013 at 7:22 AM

    I’m not surprised by the finding. WebQuests are a great way to engage learners with content that might otherwise not be interesting but that is insufficient to change attitudes. If the WebQuest were supplemented with (or integrated) an experiential simulation or role play or a compelling video treatment of bullying, I’d expect to see attitudes change. Merely reading about the topic isn’t enough.

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