Inter-cultural differences in response to a computer based anti-bullying intervention
Background and purpose: Many holistic anti-bullying interventions have been attempted, with mixed success, while little work has been done to promote a 'self-help' approach to victimisation. The rise of the ICT curriculum and computer support in schools now allows for approaches that benefit from technology to be implemented. This study evaluates the cross-cultural effects of a computer-based anti-bullying intervention on primary school-aged children's knowledge about bullying and relevant coping strategies. Programme description: FearNot! is an interactive computer-based virtual learning environment designed for use as an anti-bullying intervention. It includes interactive virtual agents who assume the most common participant roles found in episodes of bullying. FearNot! was used by children over three consecutive weeks to allow its effectiveness to be evaluated in a longitudinal in situ programme. Sample: Two comparable samples were drawn from the UK and Germany. In the UK, 651 participants (aged 8-11) were recruited from primary schools in Hertfordshire, Coventry and Warwickshire, whereas the 535 German participants (aged 7-10) were sourced from Grundschulen in the Bayern and Hessen regions. Because of lack of parental consent, late joiners and absences/missing responses, data from 908 participants (UK 493; Germany 415) were analysed. Design and methods: A quasi-experimental, pre/post-tests control group design employed pre-published and bespoke questionnaires to collect data. Descriptive and inferential analyses were conducted. Results: UK students possessed higher coping strategy knowledge scores than German participants, but German children's scores improved over time and as a result of the FearNot! intervention. Conclusions: Overall, while not effective at increasing children's coping strategy knowledge in this study, the FearNot! intervention could prove a useful classroom tool to approach the issue of bullying as part of a wider initiative. Cultural differences at baseline and reactions to the intervention are discussed.