Feeling Cybervictims' Pain—The Effect of Empathy Training on Cyberbullying

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Abstract

As the world's population increasingly relies on the use of modern technology, cyberbullying becomes an omnipresent risk for children and adolescents and demands counteraction to prevent negative (online) experiences. The classroom-based German preventive intervention “Medienhelden” (engl.: “Media Heroes”) builds on previous knowledge about links between cognitive empathy, affective empathy, and cyberbullying, among others. For an evaluation study, longitudinal data were available from 722 high school students aged 11–17 years (M= 13.36,SD= 1.00, 51.8% female) before and six months after the implementation of the program. A 10-week version and a 1-day version were conducted and compared with a control group (controlled pre-long-term-follow-up study). Schools were asked to randomly assign their participating classes to the intervention conditions. Multi-group structural equation modeling (SEM) showed a significant effect of the short intervention on cognitive empathy and significant effects of the long intervention on affective empathy and cyberbullying reduction. The results suggest the long-term intervention to be more effective in reducing cyberbullying and promoting affective empathy. Without any intervention, cyberbullying increased and affective empathy decreased across the study period. Empathy change was not generally directly linked to change in cyberbullying behavior. “Media Heroes” provides effective teaching materials and empowers schools to address the important topic of cyberbullying in classroom settings without costly support from the outside. Aggr. Behav. 42:147–156, 2016. © 2015 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.

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