UNIR creates a program to protect minors from eight internet risks, such as cyberbullying or nomophobia

UNIR creates a program to protect minors from eight internet risks, such as cyberbullying or nomophobia
UNIR creates a program to protect minors from eight internet risks, such as cyberbullying or nomophobia


The International University of La Rioja (UNIR) has created a programme to protect minors from eight internet risks, such as cyberbullying or nomophobia. The Safety.net multi-risk prevention programme can be applied in educational centres and allows minors to acquire the skills for appropriate use of the internet and prevent problems before they occur.

The program has been designed and validated by researchers from the UNIR Cyberpsychology group, within a research project, which has received funding from the Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities.

Safety.net is a pioneer in its comprehensive, collaborative approach to the risks posed by the Internet to teenagers, based on scientific evidence that risks overlap for minors, while it is common for an individual to present more than one risk or problem at the same time.

While many other prevention programmes focus on a specific risk, Safety.net encompasses relational risks, those that occur due to the interaction of the minor with other people through the Internet (cyberbullying, sexting, cyber-deception, online abuse in couples), and dysfunctional risks, derived from an inappropriate use of technology (general problematic use of the Internet, Internet gaming disorder, online gambling and nomophobia).

Furthermore, unlike most programs, the one developed by UNIR focuses on the age ranges recommended for primary prevention work: between 11 and 14 years (1st and 2nd year of Compulsory Secondary Education).

The final version of the programme has been tested on 726 adolescents, aged between 11 and 14, from 12 educational centres in five autonomous communities: Aragon, Castilla La Mancha, Castilla y Leon, Community of Madrid and Principality of Asturias.

In addition to prevention, it also acts on some problems such as cyber-victimization among peers and within couples, sexual solicitation/interaction with adults, problematic use of the Internet and nomophobia, which provides very important added value.


The programme consists of 16 one-hour sessions, divided into four modules: 1) Digital skills; 2) Relational risks; 3) Dysfunctional risks; and 4) Changing attitudes and thoughts. Each session contains an activity to be carried out to internalise the concepts and promote behavioural modification in adolescents. It also includes some reminder sessions recorded by students of the same age that act as cyber-advice.

Teachers receive training to implement it at the school. Its structure and duration allow it to be applied in a four-month period, making it a potential psychoeducational tool to integrate into tutorial action plans.


To test its effectiveness, a two-stage repeated measures study (pre-test and post-test) was conducted, which made it possible to compare the acquisition of knowledge regarding the risks of the Internet by minors after their participation. The adolescents generally perceived learning and improvement after completion.

For example, 54.7 percent of minors said they had “learned what sexting is and why it is dangerous to send compromising and sexual photos to other people.” 47.21 percent said they “understood better what grooming is and what I can do if an adult blackmails me.”

47.1 percent said they “became more aware that online control and disdain for their partner sometimes begins in very subtle ways.” And 43.8 percent said they had become aware of “the behaviors that can cause problems when we connect too much to the Internet, and I have learned some recommendations to avoid being so hooked.”

Regarding the evaluation of the program, 73.6 percent of participants were very satisfied after having completed it.

“Safety.net is a tool with a vocation for service and transfer to society. It was created to respond to the body of evidence that indicates that it was common for minors to present more than one risk or problem at the same time. In these years we wanted to give a holistic and different response, one that was at the forefront of prevention. Society deserves and needs these answers, not just for us to tell them how prevalent the risks are and how much they affect our adolescents,” explains Joaquín González-Cabrera, researcher at the Transfer and Research Institute (ITEI) of UNIR, coordinator of the research.

The Safety.net program was previously evaluated in a pilot study conducted by researchers in 2021 with a sample of 165 adolescents aged 11 to 14. Now, the main objective of this study has been to evaluate the effectiveness of the Safety.net program in a more normalized context and with a larger sample of participants than in its previous application.

Researchers have been able to conclude that this multi-risk program can effectively prevent and reduce many Internet risks in a minimum number of sessions during early adolescence.

“Safety.net is a living project that is constantly being updated so that, in a few years, it will cover more risks, such as the problematic use of pornography and social networks or the inappropriate use of artificial intelligence. These are future challenges that are being built in the present,” says Jessica Ortega-Barón, researcher in UNIR’s Cyberpsychology group and lead author of the study.

The study also involved Adoración Díaz López, Vanessa Caba Machado and Blanca Tejero Claver, from the International University of La Rioja (UNIR); Jessica Ortega Barón, from the University of Valencia (UV), and Juan M. Machimbarrena, from the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).

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