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Promoting Online Safety among Adolescents: Enhancing Coping Self-Efficacy and Protective Behaviors through Enactive Mastery

Communication and Information Technologies Annual

ISBN: 978-1-78350-629-3, eISBN: 978-1-78350-582-1

Publication date: 27 November 2014



The purpose of this research was to utilize protection motivation theory, which states that individuals will take actions to protect themselves from threats when they have both knowledge of actions that will protect them from the threat and the motivation to do so, to develop a better way of training adolescents to be safe on the Internet.


This study utilized an experimental approach in a high school environment to test its hypotheses. Participants were split into two groups: a group who received a tutorial about how to stay safe on the Internet (an enactive mastery tutorial that allowed students to actually try out the skills they were learning) and a group who did not receive the training. Participants were then asked about their intentions to engage in protective behaviors, their perceived ability to do so, and the likelihood that these protective behaviors would help them to stay safer on the Internet.


The findings indicated that an enactive mastery training program increased intentions to engage in safe online behavior in the future, offering a foundation for the development of future theory-based online safety interventions.

Research limitations/implications

This study was conducted in a small geographic region in schools that agreed to utilize a class period to test the enactive mastery tutorial, which limits its external validity. Furthermore, this study only measured intentions to engage in protective behaviors, not actual behaviors.

Practical implications

This research provides a guideline for an effective way of increasing the likelihood that adolescents will engage in protective behaviors online, which has great practical applications for teachers, administrators, PSA advertisers, etc.


This chapter provides a framework for creating programs to help adolescents engage in safer behavior. Furthermore, it introduces the idea of involvement to the protection motivation theory literature, which is a valuable variable to consider when determining how to create an effective campaign to change behavior.



Waddell, J.C., McLaughlin, C., LaRose, R., Rifon, N. and Wirth-Hawkins, C. (2014), "Promoting Online Safety among Adolescents: Enhancing Coping Self-Efficacy and Protective Behaviors through Enactive Mastery", Communication and Information Technologies Annual (Studies in Media and Communications, Vol. 8), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, Leeds, pp. 133-157.



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