Children may be able to escape bullying, researchers from University of Warwick believe, if they play certain specially designed virtual reality games.
The research showed that children who took part in a three-week anti-bullying virtual learning intervention in schools in the UK and Germany showed a 26pct decrease in victimisation.
Maria Sapouna and Professor Dieter Wolke examined the effects of an anti-bullying virtual learning intervention called FearNot!
For the study, researchers recruited 1,129 children aged between eight and nine from 27 primary schools across the UK and Germany, who were split into intervention and control groups.he intervention group took part in three sessions, interacting individually with the FearNot! software.
Each session lasted around 30 minutes over a three-week period. The children were assessed on self-report measures of victimisation before and after the intervention.
The software was a virtual school with 3D pupils who assumed the roles that children take when bullying occurs, either as the bully, victim or bystander.
These characters were then used to improvise real-life bullying incidents and pupils could interact with the characters and suggest ways to cope with or resolve the situation.
Although the effect was only short-term, researchers suggest longer interventions could have a more sustained impact.
"We found that the FearNot! intervention significantly increased the probability of victims escaping victimisation, especially among those children who interacted with the characters more and explored the advice," said Professor Wolke.
The effects we found were only short-term, but we believe a longer term intervention integrated in the curriculum would be more beneficial.
"Our findings suggest for the intervention to be effective, they need to be of appropriate duration and include booster episodes over time. Virtual interventions could be most effective as part of a wider anti-bullying curriculum," he added.
The study is published in The Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry.