Question: Do you know of any effective “diversion/intervention” type programming designed for kids who have struggled to maintain a healthy relationship with social media and with classmates on social media? I am looking for an educational resource designed for middle school students who have, unfortunately, used social media to be unkind, bully, promote false information, etc.


Answer: The good news is that anti-cyberbullying school-based intervention programs have been shown to significantly reduce cyberbullying. There is less evidence, however, that many of the new digital citizenship school-based programs that strive to teach students how to navigate digital technologies and their social ecosystems in healthy ways actually change students’ behaviors.

What Educators Can Do

  • Assess whether you need to implement a bullying, cyberbullying or digital citizenship program.
    • Anti-cyberbullying programs that focus specifically on cyberbullying seem to be the most effective compared to those that focus on general violence prevention or general bullying behavior.
    • Digital citizenship programs have the benefit of teaching not just about cyberbullying, but overall healthy internet behaviors.
  • Collaborate and get feedback from key stakeholders— teachers, parents and students— on what type of programs they think would be effective for their school environment and what curriculum to include in a program.
  • Assess your school culture and resources to provide training programs (e.g., monetary resources, individuals involved in implementation, classroom time).
    • Strive to provide teachers adequate time and training with curriculum materials to ensure consistent delivery across classrooms.
    • Implement intervention programs over at least an entire academic year and across K through 12 to improve outcomes, if possible, as recommended across studies by researchers, teachers, and students.
  • If you are interested in Digital Citizenship programs, we recommend looking at this book chapter by Weinstein and James (2022): Chapter 15: School-Based Initiatives Promoting Digital Citizenship and Health Digital Media Use (see page 369 for table with overview of programs)
    • These researchers note to avoid curricula that do not align with research such as:
      1. Using the language of “addiction” to characterize everyday media habits.
      2. Describing a causal relationship between media activities and mental health issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, suicide risk).
      3. Emphasizing total screen time without any attention to the types of digital activities that comprise that time.
      4. Including potentially problematic messages and examples of simplistic and likely ineffective instructional approaches (e.g., just telling all students “Don’t compare yourself to others on social media”) (see Weinstein, 2017 for context on why this approach may fall short).
      5. Lessons with a clear implication that offline activities are inherently more worthwhile than any online activities.


  • If you are interested in Anti-Cyberbullying programs, we recommend reading a review and meta-analysis by Polanin and colleagues (2022) who identified programs with 7 different components (none of these components are necessarily more effective):
    • Skill-building
      • Example programs: Skills for Life, Relationships to Grow, NoTrap!
    • Curricula and prepared materials
      • Example programs: WebQuest, The Cyberbullying Prevention Program, ConRed
    • Psychoeducation
      • Example programs: ViSC, Cyber Friendly Schools
    • Multimedia materials
      • Example programs: Second Step, Noncadiamointrappola (Let’s not fall into a trap; Italian)
    • Training
      • Example programs: Tabby Improved Prevention and Intervention Program (TIPIP)
    • School Climate or School Policy
      • Example programs: Olweus Bullying Prevention Program (OBPP)
    • Group or Individual Targeted Responses
      • Example programs: Cyberprogram 2.0 (Spain), The Sensitive Development Program against Cyberbullying

Resources for Educators

  • Websites:
    1. provides tips for teachers on recognizing and responding to cyberbullying at school.
    2. As you consider cyberbullying prevention approaches for your school, provides a resource titled “Misdirections in Bullying Prevention and Intervention” which lays out common anti-bullying strategies used in schools that are not recommended.
    3. Cyberbullying Research Center provides resources, information about laws, research, presentations, books, etc.
  • Chapter with overview of digital citizenship programs:
    1. Adolescent Digital Media Use and Mental Health book, specifically, Chapter 15: School-Based Initiatives Promoting Digital Citizenship and Health Digital Media Use (see page 369 for table with overview of programs)
  • Book:
    1. Behind Their Screens provides insights into teens’ perspectives on digital technology drawn from research studies.


Age: 9-14, adolescents, early adolescents, middle adolescents, middle school

Topics: Cyberbullying, digital citizenship, school-based prevention and intervention

Role: Educator

Last Updated



American Academy of Pediatrics