The Effectiveness of an Intervention to Promote Awareness and Reduce Online Risk Behavior in Early Adolescence

The current study explored the effect of a school-based intervention on online risk awareness and behavior in order to shed light on a relatively unexplored field with high practical relevance. More than 800 Belgium primary school children (grade 4 and 6) were assessed at two measurements (n T1 = 812, 51.2 % female; n T2 = 819, 51.3 % female) before and after the intervention. Half of them received a 10 min classroom intervention indicating online risks. Children in the control group received a 10 min presentation concerning online applications without any emphasis on risks. Children in the intervention group were more likely to be aware of online risks directly after the intervention; this effect was still noticeable 4 months after. Reporting of online risk behavior in the intervention group was also higher compared to the control group who did not receive the intervention. Overall online risk awareness and online risk behavior were negatively associated and the awareness did not modulate the association between the intervention and online risk behavior. Furthermore, individual differences were assessed. Girls were more likely to be aware of online risks and asserted less online risk behavior than boys were. In line with the imperative in adolescence to become more risk taking, children in a higher grade were more likely to behave in a risky manner when online. The current study provides a valuable starting point for further research on how to decrease online risk behavior in early adolescence.