March 1, 2024 2:31 am
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UNH Center Works to Prevent Online Violence Against Children

Credit: iStock

Kathryn Carley

The University of New Hampshire’s Crimes Against Children Research Center has teamed up with the World Health Organization to help parents learn the best and most effective ways to protect their children online. The Center’s latest report highlights the importance of school-based programs to teach youths specific life skills such as assertiveness, emotion management and seeking help.

David Finkelhor, Crimes against Children Research Center Director, said actively teaching kids how to use these skills online can make all the difference when they encounter cyberbullying or even attempts at identity theft.

“Not just to hear about the importance, but to practice them, in role plays and dramatic re-enactments, those kinds of behaviors,” he said.

Finkelhor said data also shows that prevention programs are more successful when they involve more lessons, more reminders, and follow-ups. A single assembly or puppet show is generally ineffective.

Finkelhor said educators already have a lot on their plates but added violence prevention programs could easily be implemented into a school-wide curriculum, and went on to say more emphasis should be placed on acquaintance and peer perpetrators, since the majority of offenses online come from people children already know.

The concept of “stranger danger” is an easy one to teach, Finkelhor said, but teaching kids to always avoid unknown adults will have limited effect.

“That’s not the most useful thing that we need to be teaching them,” he said. “We really need to be teaching them what are inappropriate things for other people to start to do with them online.”

Cyberbullying escalated during the COVID-19 pandemic. 59% of U.S. teens report they have been bullied or harassed online, and a similar number report it is a major problem for people their age. Finkelhor said the most effective prevention program will teach kids how to spot inappropriate behavior, how best to stop it and escape from it.

References:  

What works to prevent violence against children online World Health Organization 11/24/22
Comprehensive sexuality education United Nations Population Fund 2022
Cyberbullying report Pew Research Center 09/27/18
Internet Cyberbullying Statista

This story was written by Kathryn Carley, a producer at Public News Service, where this story first appeared.