Background. The reduction of prevalence rates of Internet Use Disorder (IUD) and its
effective treatment are at high priority in both public health and educational policies.
School-based preventive interventions facilitate a low-threshold approach for individuals
with IUD, who are typically characterized by high therapy avoidance. Moreover, indicated
approaches which target adolescents at high-risk show larger effects than universal
prevention approaches. Simultaneously, they reduce unnecessary burden for the majority of
high-school students that is not at-risk. The PROTECT intervention for indicated prevention
of IUD in school settings was developed based on these preventive strategies.
Methods. Three-hundred and forty adolescents, aged 12-18 years, from 40 secondary schools in
Germany, screened for high-risk of IUD onset, will be randomly assigned to a) PROTECT
intervention group or b) assessment only control group. The tested intervention consists of a
cognitive-behavioral 4-session brief-protocol. Follow-up assessments are at 1, 4 and 12
months after admission. Primary outcome is the 12-months incidence rate of IUD. Secondary
outcomes are the reduction of IUD and comorbid symptoms and the promotion of problem solving,
cognitive restructuring and emotion regulation skills.
Discussion. The indicated preventive intervention PROTECT follows the APA-guidelines for
psychological prevention. It is theory- and evidence-based (guideline 1) and addresses both
risk-reduction and strength-promotion (guideline 3), it considers current research and
epidemiology (guideline 4) and ethical standards (guideline 5) such as professional secrecy
and is designed as a systemic intervention (guideline 8) at the school-level. It is expected
that the intervention decreases risk of IUD onset (incidence rate).