WHO report evaluates online safety educational programmes for youth

WHO report emphasizes the effectiveness of educational programs in preventing online violence against children, particularly cyberbullying. The report highlights structural and skill components that enhance program effectiveness, advocating for more youth engagement and parental involvement. It also identifies a lack of evidence regarding prevention programs for online child sexual exploitation and abuse. The report recommends implementing school-based programs with multiple sessions and involving parents, emphasizing integrating online safety content with offline violence prevention. It suggests shifting focus from stranger danger to addressing acquaintance and peer perpetrators, who are commonly responsible for online violence against children.

The World Health Organization (WHO) issued a report titled What Works to Prevent Online Violence Against Children which shows that prevention education for children can work and that this is a key strategy for addressing online violence against children (VAC).

Building on a review of evaluations of online safety programmes and online VAC programmes for children and adolescents, the report argues that educational programmes have been widely demonstrated to improve overall safety and health. These educational programmes are particularly effective in preventing one type of online VAC – cyberbullying (both victimisation and perpetration).

This report also captured a number of structural and skill components that contribute to the effectiveness of educational programmes and should be widely adopted. Structural components include multiple and varied learning strategies and tools; more lessons, more message exposures, more reminders, and follow-ups; using peer engagement, role-plays, and interactions; getting a supportive whole-school environment; and parental involvement. Skill components include problem-solving, assertiveness, empathy, self-regulation, help-seeking, bystander or defender mobilization, social norm instruction, sex education, and substance abuse education.

The report also revealed that there is a lack of evidence about the success of prevention programmes for online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

The report suggests implementing school-based educational programmes with multiple sessions that encourage youth interaction and involve parents. It emphasises the need for more violence prevention programmes that integrate content about online dangers with offline violence prevention. It suggested less emphasis on stranger danger and more emphasis on acquaintance and peer perpetrators, who are responsible for the majority of online violence against children.