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A Safe (Cyber)space for Children

Research by Professor Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, PhD, RN, FAAN, Villanova University College of Nursing

Elizabeth Dowdell

“Health risks occur across a child’s life and environment, as well as now being online,” says Dr. Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell. Her studies of taboo topics and cyber dangers have drawn national media attention. Among her future research project topics is the influence of electronic aggression on high-risk individuals who have had victimization experiences.

Interpersonal and domestic violence affect one in four Americans, with the majority being women and children. Through her research and teaching of pediatric nursing, Dr. Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell brings the often taboo subjects of violence, vulnerability and victimization into the awareness of current and future nurses who care for these victims. Studying and identifying the interrelationships among various forms of electronic aggression, including cyber-bullying and the new phenomena of sleep texting, this pioneering nurse scientist has made major contributions quantifying the health risks that vulnerable adolescents face. She also provides leadership on vital, compelling issues in child health. Her work has generated nationwide media coverage.

Dr. Dowdell’s research updates the profile of high-risk youth and highlights the significance of the interrelationships among physical, sexual and emotional factors and electronic aggression when on the Internet. Her research has led to new strategies for risk profiling and understanding the perilous behaviors of children and adolescents associated with using the Internet, smart phones and social media. Dr. Dowdell’s current grant from the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention advances the science of children’s risk behaviors by providing interdisciplinary professionals with resources to assess risk, educate children and parents, and plan future intervention studies to minimize risk. Her program of research promotes Internet safety across the lifespan and contributes to evidence-based practice outcomes.