"FearNot!": a computer-based anti-bullying-programme designed to foster peer intervention

Natalie Vannini, Sibylle Enz, Maria Sapouna, Dieter Wolke, Scott Watson, Sarah Woods, Kerstin Dautenhahn, Lynne Hall, Ana Paiva, Elizabeth André, Ruth Aylett, Wolfgang Schneider

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

55 Citations (Scopus)


Bullying is widespread in European schools, despite multiple intervention strategies having been proposed over the years. The present study investigates the effects of a novel virtual learning strategy (“FearNot!”) to tackle bullying in both UK and German samples. The approach is intended primarily for victims to increase their coping skills and further to heighten empathy and defence of victims by non-involved bystanders. This paper focuses on the defender role. Applying quantitative as well as qualitative methodology, the present study found that “FearNot!” helped non-involved children to become defenders in the German sub-sample while it had no such effect in the UK sub-sample. German “New Defenders” (children who are initially uninvolved but are nominated as defenders by their peers after the intervention period) were found to be significantly more popular at baseline, and to show more cognitive empathy
(Theory of Mind) for the virtual victims as compared to permanently non-involved pupils. Moreover, gender interacts with becoming a defender in its effects on affective empathy, with emotional contagion being particularly associated with New Defender status among girls. The findings are discussed in relation to previous research on antibullying intervention strategies and cultural differences in bullying prevalence rates and intervention outcomes.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)21-44
Number of pages24
JournalEuropean Journal of Psychology of Education
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 19 Jun 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Empathy
  • Peer intervention
  • Role-play
  • School bullying
  • Virtual learning environment


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