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  • Cyber Friendly Schools Project: 2010-2012

An empirical trial to reduce cyber-bullying in adolescents

Cyberbullying is a psychologically damaging form of covert bullying used primarily by adolescents to inflict harm on others through electronic and digital media, such as: emails, chat-rooms, mobile phones, websites, web-cams. International research suggests that the incidence of cyberbullying is rising. Globally cyberbullying prevalence is as high as 30% of adolescents. Australian data collected by this team suggest that approximately 7% of students in Years 4 to 9 are cyberbullied every few weeks or more often. Both perpetrators and victims of cyberbullying are found to have greater involvement in drinking and smoking, and a higher incidence of depression, social anxiety and lower self esteem, while victims were also more likely to be absent from school and eight times more likely than other students to have carried a weapon to school in the 30 days prior to taking the survey.

The Cyber Friendly Schools Project (CFSP): An empirical intervention to reduce cyberbullying in adolescents, was a three-year group randomised controlled trial that tested the effectiveness of an innovative school cyberbullying prevention program that actively engaged young people in its development and implementation.

The project was conducted in 35 non-government Perth metropolitan schools in 2010-2012, with 19 schools randomised to an intervention and 16 to a comparison group. The Year 8 cohort in 2010 were recruited to the project and tracked for two years into Year 10. A whole-school and curriculum intervention, which included involving Year 10 students as Cyber Leaders in each year, was delivered in 2010 and 2011 in the intervention schools. The intervention materials were adapted and disseminated with training, to the comparison schools in 2012.

The Cyber Friendly Schools Project intervention comprised three components targeting the: whole-school, students and parents. The whole-school intervention focused on assisting schools to implement strategies related to their school’s organisational context; providing a consistent understanding of cyberbullying with strategies to support and develop students’ social relationships and peer support; policy development and implementation (e.g., mobile phone, IT policy etc.), involving the school community; attention to school ethos and culture development; strategies to support student social and emotional development; positive behaviour management strategies, and less punitive-based solutions to bullying; pastoral care initiatives and school-home-community links.

The student intervention was designed with a strong emphasis on resilience, positive communication, self-management and social responsibility. Students were provided with information and strategies to increase pro-victim and reduce the pro-bully attitudes of secondary school students; build the capacity of these students to help others; empower them to cope adaptively with cyberbullying should it occur; and training them to react assertively and not aggressively to cyberbullying.

As part of the CFSP, extensive training was provided to staff and students in the participating schools, this included training for whole-school teams, teaching staff, and nominated Year 10 students for roles as cyber leaders in the schools. Data were collected from the student cohort at baseline, one post-test and a follow-up. Just over 3,000 Year 8 students completed online surveys in 2010, 2,940 in Year 9 in 2011 and 2,874 in Year 10 in 2012. In addition, project co-coordinators in each school were interviewed about their whole-school planning and activities, teachers of the student cohort were surveyed and Year 10 students acting as cyber leaders were also surveyed each year.

Preliminary analyses indicate positive outcomes in the CFSP project. The intervention was associated with steeper declines in the odds of new cases of cybervictimisation and cyberperpetration from the baseline in Year 8 to the first post-intervention data collection in Year 9, but not for the subsequent period between Year 9 and Year 10. No intervention was delivered in Year 10; hence the latter is a test for the sustainability of any intervention effects. For students who were cyberbullied and who cyberbullied others, the intervention had no impact on the frequency or extent of the cyberbullying exposure or perpetration. While this study had small but positive findings it is interesting to note that less than a third of the intervention was implemented in year 1 and 2 of the study by intervention teachers. It is hoped that greater implementation of the intervention materials by classroom teachers in future trials will yield further positive and significant findings. Further analyses of data are being undertaken by the researchers to identify the more successful aspects of the program that can be used in future evaluations of the Cyber Friendly Schools intervention.


Cross, D., Shaw, T., Hadwen, K., Cardoso,P., Slee, P., Roberts, C., Thomas, L. , Barnes, A. Longitudinal impact of the Cyber Friendly Schools Program on adolescents’ cyberbullying behaviour. Aggressive Behaviour. (Under review).

Cross, D., Lester, L., Barnes, A. (In press 2015). A longitudinal study of the social and emotional predictors and consequences of cyber and traditional bullying victimisation. International Journal of Public Health.

Cross, D., Cardoso, P., Shaw, T., Thomas, L. (2013). An empirical intervention to reduce cyberbullying in adolescents. Final report to Healthway. Perth, Western Australia: Edith Cowan University, Child Health Promotion Research Centre.

Shaw, T., Dooley, J.J., Cross, D, Zubrick, S.R. & Waters, S. (2013). The Forms of Bullying Scale (FBS): Validity and reliability estimates for a measure of bullying victimization and perpetration in early adolescence. Psychological Assessment, 25(4), 1045-1057.

Lester, L., Cross, D., Shaw, T. 2012. Problem behaviours, traditional bullying and cyberbullying among adolescents: longitudinal analyses, Emotional and Behavioural Difficulties, 17(3-4), 435-447.

Dooley, J.J., Shaw, T., Cross, D. (2012). The association between the mental health and behavioural problems of students and their reactions to cyber-victimisation. European Journal of Developmental Psychology. 9(2):275-289

Shaw, T., Cross, D. (2012). The clustering of bullying and cyberbullying behaviours within Australian schools. Australian Journal of Education, 56(2), 142-162.Lester, L., Cross, D., Dooley, J., Shaw, T. (2012). Developmental trajectories of adolescent victimization: Predictors and outcomes, Social Influence, 8(2-3), 107-130.

For further information about this project contact Donna Cross or Patricia Cardoso at

Project duration


Funding body



Professor Donna Cross
Curtin University, Associate Professor Clare Roberts
Flinders University, Professor Phillip Slee

Associate Investigators

Queensland University of Technology, Dr Marilyn Campbell
Ms Thérèse Shaw
Dr Lydia Hearn
Associate Professor Stacey Waters
Ms Patricia Williams
Ms Jeanette Hasleby
Dr Debora Brown
Dr Sharyn Burns


Ms Patricia Cardoso
Ms Kate Hadwen
Dr Laura Thomas

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