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Cyberviolence in Youth Dating Relationships: A Knowledge Synthesis on the Effectiveness of Prevention Programs

Violence in young romantic relationships is a worrying phenomenon that has multiple consequences on the health and well-being of those who are victims. Also occurring online, this violence is an increasingly documented phenomenon that requires interventions from the start of adolescence in order to avoid the escalation and crystallization of violent behavior in the context of a romantic relationship.

It is in this perspective that the General Directorate of Public Health of the Ministry of Health and Social Services has entrusted the National Institute of Public Health of Quebec with the mandate to identify the best practices for the prevention of cyberviolence in relationships in love with young people. This narrative review aims to describe the effects of the prevention programs identified. It will make it possible to better orient the development and implementation of preventive measures in order to act upstream of this phenomenon.

Seven studies evaluating the effectiveness of six different prevention programs were retained. None of the programs surveyed aims to prevent cyberviolence in young people’s dating relationships alone. Their main objectives are to prevent either:

  • victimization and/or perpetration of offline violence and cyberviolence in romantic or peer relationships, or;
  • victimization associated with the risks that young people may be exposed to online.

Their modalities, such as the number of sessions and their duration, vary. Their activities, which are also diversified, mainly target the acquisition of knowledge and/or the development of skills among young people.

Only two studies evaluating two different programs measured an effect on cyberviolence perpetrated in youth dating relationships. Studies evaluating the effects of the Brief ITP (Incremental Theory of Personality) and Real Talk programs find a decrease in cyberviolence perpetrated by young people as a result of their participation in the programs. None of the programs examined have any effect on cyberviolence experienced.

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Four courses of action are proposed to improve prevention practices and programs:

  1. Consider the continuum between offline violence and cyberviolence in romantic relationships by intervening on risk and protective factors common to these two types of violence;
  2. Develop initiatives that include components aimed at reaching several living environments frequented by young people;
  3. Provide interveners with adequate training that targets the issues associated with cyberviolence in young people’s romantic relationships and actively engage young people in the deployment of interventions;
  4. Integrate activities aimed at acquiring knowledge and developing skills into prevention programs.