The effectiveness of prevention programs for problematic usage of internet in adolescents and youths: a systematic review
Objective: This review aimed to synthesize the available evidence on the effectiveness of existing prevention programs for problematic usage of internet (PUI) in adolescents and youths.
Background: Problematic usage of the internet (PUI) can lead to dysfunction and undesired consequences, especially in adolescents and youths. To prevent or reduce risks associated with PUI it is necessary to develop preventive interventions and to generate information for the development of PUI prevention policies. While evaluation of preventive interventions have been performed and reviewed, a major shortcoming of existing reviews is that they mostly use general search terms and, therefore, may be missing some important studies. The present review study addresses this problem by considering both general and specific behavior terms, thus reflecting the heterogeneity of terms that are used to refer to PUI.
Inclusion criteria: Published studies with appropriate design that assess the effects of prevention programs targeting PUI behaviors (i.e. online gaming, gambling, social networking, cyberbullying, pornography viewing, etc.) aimed at adolescents and youths.
Methods: Two independent reviewers performed a systematic search for published studies in English, French and Spanish drawing from PubMed, PsycINFO, Cochrane Register of Controlled Trials and Scopus. These were assessed against inclusion criteria. Full texts for eligible studies were retrieved and evaluated for quality.
Results: After quality assessment 23 articles were retained for narrative synthesis. Eighteen articles assessed the effectiveness of primary prevention programs for school-based cyberbullying. These programs can be roughly classified in three groups: (1) programs that target traditional bullying but are also successfully applicable to cyberbullying (e.g., Kiva, ViSC), (2) programs specifically tailored for cyberbullying (e.g., Mediaheroes), and (3) programs that cover both traditional bullying and cyberbullying (e.g., Notrap!). Most of these programs target middle school students, with some exceptions targeting college students. The latter are more time-limited and mostly rely on videos, while the former are more complex and elaborate. Some of the programs are theory-driven, with the Theory of Reasoned Action (TRA, Ajzen), the Health Belief Model (HBM), and social-ecological frameworks providing the main theoretical underpinnings. The other five articles focus on the prevention of internet addiction in both adolescents and college students. These programs are selective in nature, and two of them are concerned with improving digital literacy and a more conscious use of internet rather than tackling specific problematic internet use behaviors. The possibility of conducting a meta-analysis is being assessed.