Virtual learning intervention to reduce bullying victimization in primary school : a controlled trial
Background: Anti-bullying interventions to date have shown limited success in reducing victimization and have rarely been evaluated using a controlled trial design. This study examined the effects of the FearNot! anti-bullying virtual learning intervention on escaping victimization, and reducing overall victimization rates among primary school students using a nonrandomized controlled trial design. The program was designed to enhance the coping skills of children who are known to be, or are likely to be, victimized. Methods: One thousand, one hundred twenty-nine children (mean age 8.9 years) in 27 primary schools across the UK and Germany were assigned to the FearNot! intervention or the waiting control condition. The program consisted of three sessions, each lasting approximately 30 minutes over a three-week period. The participants were assessed on self-report measures of victimization before and one and four weeks after the intervention or the normal curriculum period. Results: In the combined sample, baseline victims in the intervention group were more likely to escape victimization at the first follow-up compared with baseline victims in the control group (adjusted RR, 1.41; 95% CI, 1.02-1.81). A dose-response relationship between the amount of active interaction with the virtual victims and escaping victimization was found (adjusted OR, 1.09; 95% CI, 1.003-1.18). Subsample analyses found a significant effect on escaping victimization only to hold for UK children (adjusted RR, 1.90; CI, 1.23-2.57). UK children in the intervention group experienced decreased victimization rates at the first follow-up compared with controls, even after adjusting for baseline victimization, gender and age (adjusted RR, .60; 95% CI, .36-.93). Conclusions: A virtual learning intervention designed to help children experience effective strategies for dealing with bullying had a short-term effect on escaping victimization for a priori identified victims, and a short-term overall prevention effect for UK children.