This project involves content and process evaluations of current internet safety education (ISE) program materials and their use by law enforcement presenters and schools.
The evaluations determined that the educational approach and message of current ISE fail to incorporate critical elements of effective prevention education. Specifically, it lacks research-based messages; skill-based learning objectives; opportunities for youth to practice new skills; and sufficient time for learning. Thus, most ISE is a highly speculative and experimental undertaking whose success cannot be assumed. Six recommendations are offered. First, ISE education must replace stock safety messages with single lessons when addressing complex social-emotional behaviors. Second, ISE program developers should reduce their reliance on dramatic statements and scare tactics. Third, the ISE field must rethink ISE materials for young children. Fourth, "Internet safety" topics are a broad and shifting mix of concerns, which makes it difficult to create comprehensive program logic around the problem as a set. Fifth, the field should make greater use of research when developing educational messages. Sixth, outcome evaluation is a critical next step. The implementation of each of these six proposals is discussed in detail. The study was divided into four sub-projects. First, a systematic review or "meta-synthesis" was conducted in order to identify effective elements of prevention identified by the research across different youth problem areas, such as drug abuse, sex education, smoking prevention, suicide, youth violence, and school failure. Second, a content analysis was conducted on four of the most well-developed and long-standing youth Internet safety curricula. Third, a process evaluation was conducted in order to better understand how Internet safety education programs are being implemented. Fourth, an Internet safety education outcome survey was conducted, focusing on online harassment and digital citizenship. Tables, references and appendixes
Date Published: December 1, 2012