ABC research is spearheading the development of next-generation responses to bullying and related issues. The breadth of ABC’s research expertise is unique globally and the Centre’s structure supports collaborative innovation with external partners such as workplaces, schools, charities and other organisations. ABC has attracted considerable research funding from the Department of Education and Skills, the European Union, the Irish Research Council, Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Human Rights & Equalities Commission, the Fulbright Commission and the Ireland Canada University Foundation.

Here are some of our current research projects:

OSAIBI (Open Standards for AI-based Bullying Interventions)

Bullying and harassment on social media platforms are difficult to define and operationalise and there is little agreement within the academic community regarding these phenomena. It is particularly challenging for social media platforms to design effective reactive let alone proactive moderation of such behaviours. Proactive moderation, which involves the application of various content analysis tools, can prove very difficult where it involves the automatic detection of bullying and harassment. These behaviours are not always overt and are often ambiguous, containing irony or sarcasm. Effective automatic detection of bullying and harassment requires processing not only subtle and often ambiguous linguistic context, but perhaps most importantly, external pragmatics including cultural context. While there is a significant amount of research on algorithm optimisation both from inside and outside of the industry, it is not yet a common practice to solicit and incorporate children’s feedback as to the functioning of these models. Ensuring children’s feedback and opinions on matters than concern them is a provision of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and this principle directly applies to co-design and co-creation of technologies that have implications for children’s wellbeing. Building on applicant’s existing project with Facebook, OSAIBI will:

1. Map social media companies’ proactive responses to bullying that rely on natural language processing (NLP), machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

2. Leverage qualitative research with children to examine how effective these proactive tools are from the perspective of children who have experienced bullying.

3. Develop a typology as precursor to ontology based automatic classification of bullying cases that take place on popular social media platforms and that can be particularly difficult to detect by proactive tools.

4. Leverage quantitative study with children to examine how they perceive their rights to privacy and freedom of expression in the context of proactive monitoring. OSAIBI will therefore facilitate transparent social media design that supports children’s wellbeing and embed children’s voices into this design in order to ensure that the proposed solutions are effective from children’s perspective.

Researchers: Dr. Tijana Milosevic, Dr. Brian Davis and Prof. James O’Higgins Norman

Funded by: ADAPT SFI’s Elite-S fellowship (European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement); and Facebook

Twitter: Dr. Tijana Milosevic

Co-designing with Children: A Rights-based Approach to Fighting Bullying

The aim of this study is to co-design with children a tool for proactive moderation of cyberbullying on social media platforms. Proactive moderation of cyberbullying on social media platforms broadly refers to the use of various types of Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence-based tools to identify cyberbullying and other types of abuse such as harassment before these are reported by users on social media platforms. 

The study proposed to port an existing machine learning tool for detecting offensive/abusive content to Facebook and Instagram platforms and to obtain children’s feedback into its effectiveness as well as recommendations as to how it can be improved. The result will be a rights driven co- design project between the researchers and vulnerable end users. This work builds on the Principal Investigator’s previous research on the effectiveness of social media companies’ anti-bullying policies and enforcement mechanisms and in turn leverages research collaboration with machine learning, Natural Language Processing and software engineering expertise in the ADAPT Centre at DCU.

Researchers: Dr. Tijana Milosevic and Dr. Brian Davis 

Funded by: Facebook’s Content Policy Award: Phase 2


Kids’ Digital Lives in Covid Times (KiDiCoTi): A Comparative Mixed-Methods Study on Digital Practices, Safety and Wellbeing

The exceptional situation we are experiencing due to the corona virus crisis has greatly disrupted our daily lives and the ones of our children. The National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) at Dublin City University works along the European Commission to conduct a study across Europe. The goal of this study is to collect information on how children and youths engage with (online) technology and to identify potential benefits and risks associated with their (online) interactions with digital technology in and post CoVID-19 times.

Researchers: Dr. Tijana Milosevic, Prof. James O’Higgins Norman and Derek Laffan MSc.

Funder & Amount: Funded by the National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre, Institute of Education, Dublin City University. The research is coordinated in more than 10 European countries by the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission.

FUSE Primary Programme 

FUSE Primary programme is an Anti-Bullying and Online Safety programme for students in primary school aged 9 to 11 years of age. Commencing in September 2020, this programme will extend into primary schools and focus on raising students awareness of bullying and online safety to increase students confidence in identifying and reporting bullying incidents in their school. FUSE Primary aims to educate parents and teachers of primary school students on Bullying and Online safety.

Researchers: James O’Higgins Norman, Darran Heaney,  Paloma Viejo Otero, Aikaterina Sargioti, David Swaine

Project Website:

Funder: Social Innovation Fund Ireland

Amount: €500,000

Sexting and Peer Popularity among Irish Adolescents

This project is a scoping study that investigates the extent of peer popularity influence and sexting behaviours (i.e. sending/ receiving “sexts”). The aims are to examine: 1) the rates of sexting, 2) differences across Genders, and 3) investigate the influencing role of popularity in sexting behaviour.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody, Dr. Angela Mazzone, Dr. Magnus Loftsson, Derek Laffan MSc., Prof. James O’Higgins Norman.

Gifted Bullying: An investigation into the prevalence and impact of bullying and cyberbullying among Gifted adolescents in Irish schools.

This project is being undertaken by ABC’s Derek Laffan MSc., Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. Robert Slonje in collaboration with the Centre for Talented Youth Ireland. Currently there is scarce research to understand the impact of bullying and cyberbullying among adolescents who have considerably high academic ability for their age.

The classroom can be a challenging place for many Gifted children if they are not being stimulated by their coursework. As a result of lack of stimulation and challenge, Gifted children can be at risk of problematic psychosocial issues affecting their wellbeing. Initial research has suggested that bullying is a major concern for the parents of Gifted children in schools.

The prospective study aims to investigate this topic more comprehensively using measures universally deployed in bullying and cyberbullying related research. It is hoped that this project is completed by early 2020 so as to be used to inform antibullying policies in Irish schools.

Researchers: Derek Laffan MSc., Dr. Mairéad Foody, Dr. Robert Slonje, Dr. Catriona Ledwith (CTYI) and Dr. Colm O’Reilly (CTYI).

Gifted Project Privacy Statement 

FUSE: An Anti-Bullying and Online Safety Programme

FUSE is an anti-bullying and online safety programme grounded in Irish and international best practice research. It consists of a range of workshops aimed at junior cycle students, their parents and school staff in post-primary schools across Ireland. Fuse is also a research and evaluation programme, allowing schools to monitor their own school and identify areas of improvement and self-evaluation. The curriculum focuses on empowering students to develop initiatives in their schools which tackle bullying and raise awareness of online safety.

Over the course of one academic year, FUSE aims to;
– To reduce levels of bullying in schools
– Increase reporting of bullying incidents
– Raise student, school staff and parent awareness of online safety
– Increase inclusiveness within the school climate, enabling school staff, students and parents, to tackle bullying and online safety

You can access the FUSE project website here.

Researchers: Prof. James O’ Higgins Norman, Darran Heaney, Aikaterini Sargioti and Paloma Viejo Otero, Colm Canning.

Funded by: Facebook

Amount: €1 Million

TRIBES: Transnational Collaboration on Bullying, Migration and Integration in Second-level Schools

With immigration a growing, permanent and fractious part of the EU’s reality, integration is of foremost concern for policy-makers in Europe, and schools are recognised as an essential part of social stability and a key aspect of integration policy both at national and EU level. Schools provide crucial education for integration and citizenship, long term directly affecting social status, professional achievement, economic earning power and students understanding of cultural morality and societal principles, allowing both the individual to prosper, and the state and EU to benefit and build on their potential as a valuable new resource.

School safety, building inclusion and preventing bullying for all students is central to integration and their well-being. Yet in the face of a far more diverse society schools face challenges that they are largely not currently supported for. The scientific measures of school safety used today are outdated and do not reflect a modern, multi-cultural, multi-faith, Europe, while school communities are working in a fragmented, individualised manner in the areas of inclusion and bullying prevention.

This proposed COST Action aims to: enhance collaboration between stakeholders to update, enhance and pilot new ‘real world’ scientific measures and approaches, collate evaluated interventions and approaches around inclusion and bullying prevention to disseminate a comprehensive program/handbook for schools and a guideline policy document for authorities, building capacity, and working holistically towards ensuring the integration, safety and well-being of all students in EU secondary schools, to aid in the social stability of both the individual and society.

Researchers: Prof. James O’ Higgins Norman, Dr. Angela Mazzone an Dr. Amalee Meehan.

Funded by: European COST Agency

Amount: €576,000

BReAThE: Bullying Experiences Among Roma Children in Ireland.

Roma people are among the most disadvantaged societies in the EU. They have been experiencing poverty, racism, discrimination, harassment, and bullying at all levels. Experiencing these barriers can act as serious deterrents to Roma parents sending their children to school. A prevention program (facilitating the inclusion of Roma children in schools) to combat these barriers is key to unlock this vicious cycle. However, this is hampered by the continued absence of data on Roma, especially in regards to bullying. Without proper scientific research on the experiences of Roma children and school attitudes towards them no effective inclusion strategies can be developed.

Primary objectives of this project are: (1) to identify the prevalence and impact of bullying amongst Roma children, (2) to determine whether or not gender differences influence bullying, (3) to describe experiences of and attitudes towards Roma children among school and educational staff, and (4) to assess inclusiveness methods that schools employ.

Following these objectives, this project aims: (1) to create a cross-national policy advisory document and outline for a training module for Roma inclusiveness in schools to be implemented beyond the life of the project; (2) to enhance the cross-community capacity, advancing collaboration between stakeholders (e.g. Roma, NGOs, school communities, academia); (3) to facilitate the inclusiveness of Roma children in schools; and (4) to promote integration, reducing bullying, and enhancing the well-being of Roma students.

The project flier for the BReAThe project can be accessed here and the international BReAThe project website can be accessed here.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody  Dr. Seffetullah Kuldas and Lian McGuire MSc. MA.

External Partners:

MUSICANTIA – Culture and Educational Roma Centre
NASC – Migrant and Refugee Rights Centre
KISA – Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism

Funded by: European Commission under Rights, Equality, and Citizenship Programme

Funding Amount: €224,815.50

Religious Identity and Bullying

Irish society’s religious adherence and practice is becoming increasingly diverse, particularly among young people. Yet the majority of Irish Post Primary schools have a Catholic ethos and Religious Education (RE) has both faith formation and theoretical elements. Research conducted in Irish schools found teachers struggled to address the needs of non-Catholic students, resulting in negative stereotyping, othering, discrimination and bullying of some students by teachers and peers (Stapleton, 2018; Carr, 2016; Parker-Jenkins, 2015). However, research also found students wish to learn about religion together and minority belief students valued and enjoyed many aspects of RE (Stapleton, 2018; Faas, 2016). This research seeks through questionnaires and interviews with RE teachers, to build on research which gave voice to minority belief students. The voices of students and teachers will be used to develop guidelines for inclusive RE.

Researchers: Prof. James O’ Higgins Norman and Dr. Kate Stapleton

External Partners: Humanist Association of Ireland

Funded by: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC)

Amount: €19,436

GEM – Gender Equality Matters: Tackling Gender Stereotyping, Gender-based Bullying and Gender-based Violence

GEM aims to raise awareness, build capacity and provide training for children, parents and educators, to promote gender equality through a rights and equality-based approach. It also aims to exchange good practices between the partner organisations and to empower the whole school and wider community to challenge attitudes and behaviours that undermine gender equality. Using an equality and rights-based approach, classroom materials have been developed for use in upper primary and lower post-primary levels , are age-appropriate, and are grounded in the SPHE curriculum and school policies such as anti-bullying, wellbeing and child protection. The development of the classroom materials was guided by an Advisory Group with expertise in both the topic and working with primary pupils and post-primary students.They were piloted in Irish, Greek, Spanish and Italian schools. Building confidence and capacity levels is key to the GEM project. Therefore, training modules were designed and provided to teachers, parents and the wider education community. Furthermore, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) was developed.

The GEM conference will take place on the 11th and 12th of February 2021. To submit a poster, workshop or paper abstract please see the Guidelines for Abstracts. Please register here to attend the conference.

The GEM Classroom Materials launched by former President Dr. Mary McAleese and the DCU Chancellor has been uploaded to the DCU Channel on Youtube. It is available to watch here.

For additional GEM project information and further conference details please see the GEM Project Website or follow us on Twitter @GenderEqualityM

Researchers: Dr. Seline Keating (Principal Investigator), Dr. Bernie Collins and Derek Laffan MSc.

External Partners: Italy (FMD); Spain (University of Murcia); Greece (KMOP) and Netherlands (ESHA)

Funded by: EU Rights, Equality and Citizenship (REC) Programme.

Amount: €460,000

SEXED: Investigating online SEXual harassment and Exploitation in relation to the UN Sustainable Developmental goals.

This project is particularly concerned with the prevalence and impact of online sexual harassment and exploitation of teenagers. The overall aim of the project is to conduct a large-scale cross-sectional investigation of online sexual harassment and sextortion behaviours in adolescents in Sweden and Ireland, with particular attention to gender and psychological outcome. While the research published by FICAB in Sweden provides the grounding for a more extensive study on online sexual harassment, further research is needed to determine the role of peer pressure, friendships and social networks in prevalence rates. Research on sextortion is even less evident. There is no empirical evidence regarding its prevalence, or the impact it is having on the mental health and social networks of those involved. In addition, in conducting this research, we plan to raise awareness of online sexual harassment and sextortion as increasingly prominent child protection issues which currently have no relevant procedure set at the EU to counteract it. Thus, the objective of this project is to use its research findings to inform the broader area of policy development as well as anti-bullying/harassment interventions at local levels.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Friends International Centre Against Bullying (Sweden); UN International Telecommunications Network (Switzerland).

Funded by: Irish Research Council Collaborative Research Fellowship for a Responsive and Innovative Europe ‘CAROLINE’ – co-funded by Marie Sklodowska-Curie Actions.

Amount: €234,694.20.

DisAbuse: Experience to Change, Providing the Right Support Services to Tackle Disablist Bullying

This project aims to expand and utilize existing knowledge and experience of all participating partners in order to learn from one another and innovate a more interactive, relevant, and experiential based set of training resources for use by both those with intellectual disabilities (ID) and special education needs (SEN) and those that may be training to work with them as teachers/educators or those who already are. The training course that will be developed will be directly applied to the target groups via the higher education partner organsiations. The aiming is to enhance not only the knowledge and skills of educators and student educators to help them better understand the difficulties of those with ID/SEN and aid in the prevention and intervention of their being bullied but also increase the knowledge and skills of those most likely to be targeted by disabilist bullying, fostering their increased socialization to a world in which they are often the most marginalised, by encouraging their direct input to the project and having both target groups train and learn together.

Researchers: Dr James O’Higgins Norman, Professor Mona O’Moore, Lian McGuire MA MPsych, Fiona Weldon MA.

External Partners: ISCTE University Institute of Lisbon (Portugal), University of Murcia (Spain), Fondazione Mondo Digitale (Italy) and Institute of Art, Design and Technology (Ireland).

Funded by: Higher Education Authority and EU Erasmus+ Fund.

Amount: €251,000.00.

ARIES: An Appreciative Inquiry into the Role of Empathy in Preventing Bullying in Schools.

This project reports on a case study investigating teacher empathy levels, and school climate, and how role modelling prosocial values and an ethos of respect and equality in the classroom sets norms for a positive school climate and a decrease in anti-social behaviour and school bullying.   This project looks at how empathic are teachers in a case-study school.  We then investigate the level of peer bullying in the school, and the final question examines to what extent empathy prepares teachers for tackling bullying and also cultivating children’s educational and holistic development.   In answering these questions, quantitative data is gathered using two tools.   The Interpersonal Reactivity Index (IRI) (Davis 1983), to gather data on empathy levels among teachers.  The Olweus Bullying Questionnaire was administered to pupils to examine the level of peer bullying.  Qualitative data in the form of teacher interviews is examined to establish the school ethos and culture, with findings related to existing research in the field.

Researchers: Helena Murphy BSc and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Irish Primary Principals Network (IPPN).

Funded by: Department of Education & Skills National Action Plan on Bullying.

Amount: €99,968.00.

E-Care: Promoting Empathy in the Workplace

The problem of workplace bullying is well documented in international literature. In Ireland it is estimated that up to 35% of employees have experienced or witnessed workplace bullying. Furthermore, between 2013 to 2015 bullying was a sole or joint feature of 96 % of cases taken to the Workplace Relations Commission during. Employers who failed to have effective policies and procedures in place are more likely to have penalties awarded against them. This project establishes an academic partnership between the National Anti‐Bullying Research and Resource Centre (ABC) and the Health Services Executive (HSE) to undertake a number of research, resource and training initiatives with the HR Department of the Health Services Executive (HSE) to enhance their work on promoting dignity in the workplace for all staff with a specific emphasis on promoting self‐awareness and reducing bullying behaviour. In addition to providing training and resources the project involves an ongoing survey of HSE staff on their levels and types of empathy which can be related to how they will interact with others in the workplace. It is hoped that the impact of this survey and the overall project will contribute to an atmosphere of respect and dignity among HSE employers.

Researchers: Dr. Angela Mazzone and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

External Partners: Health Services Executive (HSE) and ADAPT: Global Centre of Excellence for Digital Content.

Funded by: Health Services Executive (HSE).

Data Privacy Statement

An Empiricial Investigation of Cyberbullying in Irish Youths

Cyberbullying has emerged as a high profile concern for health practitioners, policy makers, schools, teachers, parents, and communities across the world. In general, it involves using electronic forms (e.g., social networking sites and texting) repeatedly and over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him/herself. This form of bullying is believed to have devastating impacts on mental health. Despite the serious consequences of such incidences, research into this phenomenon is relatively limited in an Irish context. In addition, the factors that make some students resilient to these stresses (e.g. caring friendships) have never been studied in Irish schools. This is particularly surprising given their importance for informing intervention programs in educational and community settings. Therefore the aim of this research is to fill the gap in current literature by conducting a systematic large-scale analysis of cyberbullying from a psychological perspective. Specifically, we will investigate the prevalence rates,psychological impacts, risk and resiliency factors of cyberbullying and investigate its’relationship to traditional bullying. The proposed project will have a direct impact on public understanding and we plan for our findings to be used in a way that will increase the effectiveness of public policy as well as to enhance the social and emotional health of young Irish people.

Researchers: Dr. Mairéad Foody and Dr. James O’Higgins Norman

Funded by: Irish Research Council.

Amount: €85,000.00.