Daphne Toolkit

Cyberbullying in Adolescence: Investigation and Intervention in Six European Countries

Project Reference Number: 
JUST/2008-1/211 - JLS/2008/DAP3/AG1211

Cyberbullying in Adolescence: Investigation and Intervention in Six European Countries



1. Investigation of diffusion and characteristics of cyberbullying among adolescents in schools in six European Countries and one non-EU Country. In particular, Italy, Spain, UK and Bosnia- Herzegovina, collected new data with the questionnaire (EQBC) at different age levels in the secondary schools in order to examine any changes over a 2 to 3 year period in the diffusion of traditional bullying and cyberbullying. The University of Calabria investigated the diffusion of cyberbullying in the Southern Region of Italy, in order to compare different regions. A new questionnaire put into evidence individual and contextual risk factors and a more detailed analysis of the cyberaggression. This questionnaire was translated into the Italian, English, Spanish, Greek, German, Polish and Bosniac languages in order to compare all the data on a wide European base. 

2. Testing effective strategies in European schools, as well as in an at risk context (Bosnia- Herzegovina and South of Italy). The intervention strategies had involved adolescents, teachers and parents in all the countries. Each country has devised its own intervention model, in order to account for contextual differences among school systems and school priorities.



The intervention model designed for the project takes into account the aspects of continuity with traditional bullying, but also any special features of cyberbullying and relies on a systemic perspective, interested in enhancing the quality of relationships (be "offline" or "online"), in order to contrast the dynamics of social exclusion and make room for individual differences, empathie sensitivity, to the exercise of personal responsibility, all at the service of development of inclusive and relational methods.

The aims of the intervention were :

1) acquiring knowledge and awareness of the phenomenon;

2) fostering responsibility and assertiveness;

3) promoting social inclusion. Four classes were involved into the intervention program along 52- hours meetings led by a school psychologist. The intervention was evaluated through qualitative methods, and showed an increasing in empathy and inclusive relationships among school members. The same methodology was followed for the intervention in Calabria (South of Italy).



Some guidance for schools already existed (Safe to Learn: Cyberbullying, Nov 2007), which had never been evaluated. For this reason the UK team got feedback from pupils, parents and teachers on the awareness, availability and perceived usefulness of these resources, and recommendations for revision. Several questionnaires to evaluate the interventions (films already available which were shown to students) were created. The e-safety films were evaluated using pre and post film questionnaires for students and a teacher questionnaire; CyberMentors were evaluated using two online questionnaires for mentors and meritees.



The program called ConRed (Building and Living Internet and Social Networks) aimed at improving relational systems of school life and coexistence based on social relationships that promotes school together mess. The ConRed intends to cany out an evidence- based practice. Evidence Based Practice (EPB are held under the scientific evidences identified in various studies that describe successful programs and it is aimed at educating and modifying behavior in the misuse of tools or actions.

Specific aims:

a) showing the importance of a good understanding of the mechanisms of security and protection of personal data on the Internet and social networks;

b) learning to conduct a safe and healthy use of the network blowing the benefits it can bring;

c) determine the prevalence of the phenomenon of cyberbullying and other risks in secondary education;

d) prevent involvement as victims or perpetrators of students in acts of aggression, harassment, defamation, etc., in social networks;

e) foster an attitude of confrontation and support to people involved in violence or harmful internet use;

f) discover what is the perception of control of the information they have shared in social networks;

e) prevent the abuse of ICT and show the consequences of technological dependency.



A social-cognitive perspective was employed to design and implement a school-based intervention to tackle cyberbullying in adolescence. The intervention targeted individual difference factors (i.e., empathy), cognitive regulation (i.e., moral disengagement) and decision making process (i.e., planned behavior theory and prototype/willingness model). Overall, structured questionnaires were administered to 500 adolescent students (48.8% females, M age = 14.9 years, SD = 1.02) attending typical high schools in the two largest Greek cities. A pre- and post-intervention design was used. The students were randomly assigned into an experimental and a control group, and completed a questionnaire including measures of empathy, moral disengagement, attitudes towards cyberbullying, subjective and descriptive norms, perceived behavioral control, situational temptation, anticipated regret, prototype favorability and similarity, willingness and behavioral expectations to engage in cyberbullying, and to actively intervene to hinder cyberbullying incidents. The questionnaire was administered to the students three times, namely at pre and post intervention, and at a 4 months follow-up. The intervention lasted 8 weeks and included the distribution of leaflets to students, weekly poster sessions, and interactive talks with  small groups of students.

The data were analyzed by means of repeated measures analyses, and indicated that the intervention was effective in changing students’ self-reported levels of empathy and moral disengagement dimensions, but there was no significant effect on the variables related to decision making processes. Overall, the findings showed that the intervention employed was effective in altering cognitive self-regulation process related to moral disengagement, as well as feelings of empathy. Both of these variables have been found to significantly predict bullying and cyberbullying behaviours in adolescence in past literature.



The developed preventive intervention program “MEDIENHELDEN”. (www.medienlielden-projekt.de) involved schools in Berlin, targeting students, teachers, parents and educators. The anonymous questionnaire was administered to more than 800 students from five different secondary schools (students from 11 to 17 years), their teachers and parents. The manual ized and school-based program aimed at preventing cyberbullying and fostering media skills (“Medienhelden”). The program targets middle-school students and was implemented by trained and supervised teachers within the existing school curriculum. Medienhelden buildt on psychological theories and empirical knowledge within the field of (cyber-)bullying. The core of its theoretical background is Aijzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (1991): Based on this model, the program started addressing knowledge and competencies such as psychoeducation of online security options or social skill training.

Thereafter, it seeked to change:

(a) attitudes towards the target behavior by e.g. raising students’ awareness concerning cyberbullying;

(b) existing norms by e.g. increasing social responsibility;

(c) behavioral control by e.g. providing helping strategies for oneself and others, when confronted with cyberbullying.

There are two variations of the program: A long version of 10 weeks with a 90-minute session per week and a short  version  of 1 day with four 90-minute sessions. In general, both of these  variations  include  the same content covering well-established preventive elements such as psychoeducative components, social skill trainings, role plays, peer-to-peer- and peer-to-parent tutorings."

A pre-post-follow-up-design (with control group) was conducted which included a teacher training, a pre-test followed by a 2-3 month long intervention, the post-test and the follow up which was conducted 6 months after. Medienhelden builds on psychological theories and empirical knowledge within the field of (cyber-)bullying. The core of its theoretical background is Aijzen’s Theory of Planned Behavior (1991): Based on this model, the program starts addressing knowledge and competencies such as  psychoeducation of online security options or social skill training.

Longitudinal data are available from 654 students out of 35 school classes, which were balanced with regard to gender and on average 13 years old. Of these, 207 students attended the long term intervention, 146 students the short term intervention, and 301 students received no treatment. All instruments rely on self-reports by students (cyberbullying, empathy, perspective-taking skills, self-esteem, subjective health) and teachers (feasibility, applicability, effective), which were assessed in evaluating questionnaires at pre- and post-test with the assistance of trained personnel. Concerning the treatment efficacy on the student level, results follow the expected patterns: Students in the short version, report less cyberbullying, more empathy, perspective-taking skills, self-esteem, and subjective health in contrast to the control group, while students in the long version, in turn, differ similarly on these scales in contrast to the short version. All differences between these groups are statistically significant and the effect sizes range between .2 and .4.



The intervention was developed in three Junior High Schools chosen from seven schools in which data research has been gathering. Survey and intervention have been conducted in the łódzkie voivodeship. Proposals for cooperation were addressed to the following schools: 6th Junior High School in Łódź (Gimnazjum nr 6 in Łódź) - big town, about 220 students. Junior High School in Koluszki - small city, about 350 students. Junior High School in Winna Góra - village, about 40 students. The intervention programme was tailored to the needs and possibilities of the schools taken part in the project. Every action was consulted with the authorities of the school and implemented under their permission. The main stakeholders group were students aged 14-16 chosen by headmasters and teachers. During the intervention programme the team has also cooperated with the school club - SofA (“Society of Anticyberbullying”) - a group of students from high school in Zgierz. More about SofA can be fiind here: http://www.klub-sofa.cba.pl/news.php.



In each Country, except UK, a book or a pamphlet has been produced for the dissemination of the results to the citizens, adolescents, schools and political Institutions. In addition, each Country organised at the end of the project a National Conference, except UK, to explain the main outcomes and the intervention strategies. The final International Conference in Bologna dealt with the interdisciplinary status.

Scientists from diverse fields and disciplines (e.g., education, psychology, ICTs and web science, and law) presented their perspectives on cyberbullying. Moreover, the dissemination action was carried out through the website www.bullvingandcvber.net which was redesigned in order to collect data from both projects (DAPHNE II-ECPR and DAPHNE III-ECIP). In fact, the website consists of a section with all project outputs and materials of ECPR project plus a separate section containing all the outputs of the present project (ECIP). Several documents may be downloaded by adolescents, parents, teachers. In addition, several partners who are on the Management Committee of COST IS0801: “Cyberbullying: coping with negative and enhancing positive uses of new technologies, in relationships in educational settings” have presented the research results of the project during the managing Committee meetings giving a high visibility to our project in 26 EU and not EU countries worldwide.

  • Results and theoretical issues about cyberbullying were presented in international conferences and published in scientific Journals and books in order to disseminate the main outcomes of the present project to an academic audience. Several publications were submitted both to national and International Journals. In addition, a book on anti-bullying interventions is commissioned by Wiley-Blackwell and due in 2014, which will feature the findings prominently in the chapter on cyberbullying. F. Thompson & P.K. Smith, School bullying: What schools do and what works. Wiley-Blackwell.
  • Results and implication of cyber aggressions are disseminated among adolescents and adults (e.g., parents, teachers, educators) through national conferences, national books and the web site www.bullyingandcyber.net in different languages: English, Italian, Greek, Polish and Bosniac.
  • Spanish web site:  http://www.uco.es/laecovi/conred/ with a blog for supporting the ConRed project accessible at http://conredlaecovi.blogspot.com/. Moreover, twitter ConRed to be in contact with all of the ConRed participants and potential users (Accessible: https://twitter.eom/#l/@ConredLaecovi) and Facebook ConRed to be in contact with all of the ConRed participants  and potential (Accessible: https://www.facebook.com/ConRedLaecovi)
  • German website (www.medienhelden-proiekt.deT Goldsmiths and Anti-Bullying Alliance websites and through WPS (The Pedagogical Academy in Lodz) newsletters. http://www.trendv.ore.edu.pl/
  • The dissemination of main results is possible through the participation in other European Union projects (e.g. COST IS0801 Action; Gruntvig project We CAN! - “Cyberbullying Action Network for Parents”).
  • Three families training conference posters (IES Averroes, IES Séneca, Cervantes Maristas School) and 3 teachers training conference posters (IES Averroes, IES Séneca, Cervantes Maristas School).

  • Materials for the ConRed Awareness Campaign :

    leaflet for parents
    leaflet for teachers
    leaflets for students



On the whole, the project had multiple impacts in all the country members, including the generation of new scientific knowledge on the topic, the development of didactic approaches and guidelines for school-based cyberbullying prevention, the inter- and trans-disciplinary collaboration of experts in the country and beyond national borders on cyberbullying research and prevention, and the sensitization of the wider community about cyberbullying. These impacts can be evaluated in several ways, including (but not limited to) the acceptance and publication of related scientific reports in international peer-reviewed Journals, the collaboration with other disciplines and experts in the field to pursue further research funding (i.e. already completing a grant proposal on cyberbullying in Greece with national experts that attended the conference, under the 2012 national call for projects ‘EXCELLENCE IT led by the Greek ministry of education), the ongoing communication and co-organization of cyberbullying info events with local and regional school authorities.

A common output was the new questionnaire translated in 7 languages (Italian, English, Spanish, Greek, German, Polish and Bosniac) administered to about 7000 adolescents.

A follow-up study was carried on using the first questionnaire giving a picture of the changing situation after three years in Italy, UK and Spain; further a new questionnaire was developed which has received already much interest from other leading researchers across the world (Australia, Norway) and hopefully contributes to advance the knowledge of risk/protective factors related to cyberbullying. The data collected with this new tool have given a more detailed picture of cyberbullying in a large network of EU countries. The intervention programs designed, implemented and evaluated during the project have shown the crucial need to have a framework theory inspiring the interventions and derived activities which should involve the wider ecological environment of subjects (i.e. families, peer groups, schools, local and national authorities, web companies).



The DAPHNE III project “Cyberbuílying in Adolescence: Investigation and Intervention in Six European Countries" was a systematic study and assessment of cyberbuílying behaviours among young people in Italy, UK, Greece, Germany, Spain and Poland, and contributed to identify the psychosocial mechanisms underlying such behaviour. The project aimed at three main activities:

1. Investigation of diffusion and characteristics of cyberbuílying among adolescents in schools in six European Countries and one non-EU Country;

2. Testing effective strategies in European schools;

3. Disseminating the main outcomes and creating good resources (e.g. lesson plans) for Europe.

More specifically, the national prevalence rates of cyberbuílying were documented, which showed an increasing of the percentages of students who report to have been implied in this form of behavior (both as perpetrators, victims or witnesses), compared to traditional forms of bullying, which anyway remain the most diffused. The diffusion of cyberbuílying varies across the countries involved into the research project. The preferred target of cyberbullies is generally a same sex- same-age mate, or a younger one who is known in the real life in more than an half of the cases. Cyberbullies may act together with other peers. Contextual factors such as school climate may be related both to traditional and to cyberbuílying: the dimensions considered (Perception of support from teachers, Clarity of rules Support to cultural pluralism, Positive peer interactions; Negative Peer interaction, Safety) differ significantly between adolescents at risk and individuals not involved in bullying and victimization both offline and online. Cyberbuílying thus shares some predictors of risk with traditional bullying, and one of them is represented by the regulatory system made of rules, values, beliefs, attitudes, and attitudes that characterize the groups in which adolescents are included. Translated in terms of intervention, this means investing in the change of normative values, in the acceptability of bullying and simultaneously to work in order to promote confidence and support among peers and among the other players in the school system.

School-based evidence-based interventions were implemented in each country in order to increase awareness and change beliefs towards cyberbuílying and their efficacy was evaluated too. In parallel to relevant scientific publications, the outcome evaluation of these interventions have been disseminated to key actors involved in the education of adolescents and it may help scientists and education specialists to identity effective methodologies and strategies in dealing with aggression in face to face and cyber domains. The overall results provide the basis for good practices and guidelines for school-based interventions against cyberbuílying.