Can a police-delivered intervention improve children’ online safety? A cluster randomised controlled trial on the effect of the “ThinkUKnow” programme in primary and secondary Australian schools

Tony Alderman, Barak Ariel*, Vincent Harinam

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Purpose: Online abuse of and by children is a global concern. Methods to prevent this phenomenon are diverse; however, less is known about police-led initiatives and their effectiveness in reducing the likelihood of becoming a victim or a perpetrator of cyber abuse among children. Specifically, there are no rigorous tests of the ThinkUKnow programme, to which hundreds of thousands of young people were exposed since 2006. Methods: We present results from a cluster randomised control trial conducted to evaluate the Australian version of the ThinkUKnow programme, delivered to students in primary and secondary schools. The programme consists of one face-to-face classroom-based training session delivered by at least one uniformed member of the Australian Federal Police. Post-test surveys among (n = 1954) students were used to estimate the treatment effect. Results: Exposure to the programme significantly improves knowledge about cyber abuse but marginally impacted risk perceptions, engagement with risky behaviours, or willingness to report cyber abuse to adults or others. Treatment participants are more likely to report cyber abuse to the police than control participants. The legitimacy of the police also improves following the intervention among younger but not older students. Conclusion: ThinkUKnow leads to desirable consequences in some but not all indictors of potentially minimising the risk of cyber abuse to and by children. Replications, preferably with diverse populations and measures of long-term effects of behavioural modifications, are needed.

Original languageAmerican English
JournalJournal of Experimental Criminology
DOIs
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).

Keywords

  • Cyber abuse
  • Police
  • Randomised controlled trial
  • School-based interventions
  • ThinkUKnow

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