Study Finds Education Program Effective in Teaching Kids about Cyber-Safety

A recent study found that teaching students about unsafe online behavior and cyberbullying can reduce its impact, at least in the short-term. The study, performed by Educational Technology Policy, Research, and Outreach (ETPRO), part of the University of Maryland College of Education, assessed whether a new program used by DARE and iKeepSafe was successful in encouraging kids in fifth and sixth grades to understand the three KEEPs of Internet safety (keep safe, keep away, and keep telling) as applied to cases of cyberbullying; apply strategies to reduce chances of being a cyberbullying victim; and understand the dangers of revealing personal information through online communication.

The research, sponsored by The Internet Keep Safe Coalition (iKeepSafe), DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education), AT&T, and Symantec, evaluated a group of 1,100 students from 16 private and public schools in urban, suburban, and rural areas. Participants watched a movie about Internet safety and listened to a presentation by DARE officers.

The curriculum, taught to students during the school year by DARE officers in classrooms, shows students how to protect their privacy and reach out for help if they--or friends--become victims of cyberbullying. About 3,200 officers have been trained to provide the instruction.

The survey found that:

  • The number of students describing multiple effective responses to cyberbullying scenarios increased by more than 43 percent;
  • The program helped students understand that their negative action--such as telling the cyberbully to stop--may serve to antagonize the cyberbully into continuing their behavior; or deleting the message can eliminate a source of evidence and a means to track the perpetrator;
  • Student recognition that they should tell a trusted adult when someone else was being cyberbullied went up 77 percent; and
  • Students recognized the three "keeps" of Internet safety taught in online safety lessons iKeepSafe, including not giving out personal information, and learned about the dangers of revealing personal information through online communication.

"iKeepSafe is committed to providing resources and training to create a generation of responsible, ethical, and resilient cyber-citizens," said Marsali Hancock, president of iKeepSafe. "We are encouraged by the results of the study demonstrating the increase among students about understanding privacy on the Web by protecting personal information, how to identify cyber-bullying, and how to report being cyber-bullied--all critical lessons for students who are immersed in technology from a young age. The materials for grades five and six included in the study are actually part of a larger program which includes resources for grades one through four that were created in partnership with AT&T and Symantec."

Hancock also noted that the study showed teachers responded positively to the program, that it has "filled the gap in meeting their immediate training needs, and proved to be an effective way to bring up stimulating conversation about cyberbullying and kept students' attention and interest."

About the Author

Dian Schaffhauser is a former senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal, Campus Technology and Spaces4Learning.