Bullying, in its most familiar form, is a serious public health concern. This is especially true among middle-school age children. However, the recent increase in social networking websites coupled with the increased availability of more advanced personal devices with a broader range of social applications has dramatically increased the possible types of bullying perpetrated by and against children and adolescents. Cyberbullying is perpetrated by one or more individuals who abuse one of the many computer or Internet-mediated communication formats (e.g., cell phones, email, the Internet, Facebook, texting) to bully, intimidate, or harass a young victim. Like in-person bullying, cyberbullying has been shown to negatively impact the physical and socioemotional development of youth. Both victims and offenders of bullying and cyberbullying are more likely to have low self-esteem, suicidal ideation, depression, substance use, and other associated problems. [However, there are very limited evidence-based interventions that comprehensively address both conventional bullying and cyberbullying, especially for the most frequent victims: middle-school age children.] The proposed Phase I SBIR application requests six months of funding to develop bullying and cyberbullying prevention modules, including classroom materials and serious gaming component for cyberbullying, to supplement the evidence-based Life Skills Training Middle School drug and violence prevention program. Serious gaming technology refers to a wide range of electronic games used for purposes other than pure entertainment (e.g., education, simulation, investigation). The development of such an innovative and needed intervention would fill a gap in how schools and practitioners are currently able to influence the behavior of offenders of all types of bullying as well as the help-seeking behavior of victims. The proposed bullying and cyberbullying materials will be incorporated into the evidence-based Life Skills Training (LST) prevention model for middle-school age youth. The LST model teaches youth personal self-management skills, social skills, drug refusal skills, and other life skills needed t successfully navigate developmental tasks, increase resilience, and facilitate healthy psychosocial development. The proposed intervention module will utilize state of the art gaming technology delivered within classroom settings, focusing on the antecedents, responses, and consequences of bullying and cyberbullying. In Phase I, we will develop selected serious gaming prototype materials including a participant guide, a provider manual, and the game itself. We will pilot test the prototype materials for feasibility, usability, and overall appeal i a series of focus groups and key informant interviews with middle school students and teachers. During Phase II, prototype materials will be developed in full into a commercial quality product and tested in a rigorous randomized controlled trial. The ultimate goal of this research is to promote an evidence-based prevention program for middle-school students that contains an innovative serious gaming module to prevent bullying and cyberbullying perpetration and victimization.

Public Health Relevance

This project involves the development, implementation, and testing of a bullying and cyberbullying prevention program to function in tandem with the evidence-based Life Skills Training Middle School program. The proposed work will include the development and testing of prototypes of 1) a bullying/cyberbullying serious game for middle school-age youth (accessed via the web);and 2) print material (teacher manual and student guide) that corresponds with the serious game to be used in class by teachers and students. The primary purpose of the proposed approach is to teach students, who are potential perpetrators, victims, and bystanders of bullying and cyber-bullying, to choose healthy, positive and pro-social ways of interacting with peers both on- and off-line. The secondary purpose is to inform teachers and parents how to support their students'/children's healthy, pro-social use of modern social media such as the Internet.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health & Human Development (NICHD)
Small Business Innovation Research Grants (SBIR) - Phase I (R43)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZRG1-BBBP-V (10))
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Mann Koepke, Kathy M
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National Health Promotion Associates
White Plains
United States
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