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Dr. Elizabeth Dowdell receives DOJ grant to study risk and Internet-related behaviors in adolescents

Villanova, PA, September 9, 2010 — Keeping youth safe on the Internet is not only a passion but a mission for Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, Ph.D., R.N., CRNP, associate professor at Villanova University College of Nursing. She has been awarded a grant of nearly $314,000 by the Department of Justice, Office of Juvenile Justice Delinquency Prevention [OJJDP]. Dr. Dowdell is the principal investigator for the study “Self Exploitation and Electronic Aggression: High Risk Internet Behaviors in Adolescents." The award is for two years, beginning January 1, 2011 through the end of 2012.

“The primary goal of this research project is to examine the relationships between a range of risk-related and Internet-related behaviors,” says Dr. Dowdell whose research interests focus on Internet victimization of children, health risk behaviors and vulnerability across the lifespan, victimology, and nursing care of children.

This project will survey high school students about participation in self-exploitative behaviors and risky social networking behaviors (such as auto-pornography, “sexting” and Face Roulette) that may increase victimization. Assessment of student Internet knowledge and practice is vital to understanding what motivates some adolescents to create and distribute explicit photos of themselves or others. Questions will also be asked specific to electronic aggression, about what differentiates students who use the Internet to embarrass, harass, or bully others from the student victims.

Knowledge gained from a high school population will provide insights for designing developmentally appropriate strategies that have the potential to enhance existing Internet safety programs. “By better understanding patterns of creating and distributing explicit or inappropriate photos, precursors and correlates of risky Internet behavior, and motivators of electronic aggression, we will be better able to design prevention strategies to keep youth safer on the Internet,” explains Dr. Dowdell. Previous studies have looked at Internet behaviors and experiences of middle school students, high school students, their parents and a population of Internet offenders.

Dr. Dowdell is an expert in the area of forensic pediatric nursing and Internet safety. She shares her knowledge as a member of the editorial review panel of the Journal of Forensic Nursing, as well as scholarly publications, national presentations and expert commentary for the media

Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, associate professor at Villanova University College of Nursing
Elizabeth Burgess Dowdell, associate professor at Villanova University College of Nursing