A Website to Teach Children Safety with Dogs: Development and Evaluation Dog bites result in over 800,000 doctor/ER visits, 6000 hospitalizations, and a dozen deaths each year in the United States. By a large margin, children suffer the highest risk - and children typically are bitten by familiar dogs in familiar places. Several programs exist to reduce pediatric dog bite risk, but few are empirically- supported or theoretically-motivated. None are widely disseminated. This study builds from existing child dog bite prevention programs to develop and then evaluate a website to teach children safe interactions with dogs. The website will be interactive, entertaining, and engaging, allowing children (target ages 4-6) to learn in a technologically-sophisticated and interactive environment. It will be developed based in behavioral theory. Hearkening child development theory, it will teach and permit practice of cognitive skills that develop in early childhood and are critical to safety with dogs: impulse control, perspective taking, and attention to details. Hearkening health behavior change theory, the website will help children and their parents perceive personal vulnerability to bites, recognize normative behavior to protect themselves, and have personal motivation to change previous habits. Overarching the website design will be goals to create an engaging and entertaining environment, and to facilitate cognitive and behavioral change on the part of both child and parent via multiple mechanisms. Besides teaching children, the website will educate parents via an innovative messaging system triggered by child attainment of points and "skill levels". Following website development, an evaluation study will investigate usability and efficacy of the website using a repeated measures pre-test, post-test experimental design. 68 children ages 4-6 will be recruited, complete a pre-intervention assessment evaluating knowledge and behavior relevant to dog safety via multiple methods, and then be randomly assigned to use either the newly-developed dog safety website or a control pedestrian safety website at home over the subsequent 2 weeks. Frequent reminders will encourage website use. Following the 2-week period, all children will return for a post-intervention assessment battery to evaluate knowledge and behavior change. Data will be analyzed using descriptive and inferential statistics, with primary hypotheses tested using linear mixed models.

Public Health Relevance

Dog bite injuries are a leading cause of pediatric morbidity and mortality. This project will develop and then evaluate a website designed to teach children how to engage safely with dogs. It also will educate parents. Results will have significant implications for reducing the rate of child injury, the leading cause of death for American children.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Exploratory/Developmental Grants (R21)
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Psychosocial Development, Risk and Prevention Study Section (PDRP)
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Haverkos, Lynne
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University of Alabama Birmingham
Schools of Arts and Sciences
United States
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Schwebel, David C; McClure, Leslie A; Severson, Joan (2015) Evaluating a website to teach children safety with dogs. Inj Prev 21:e2