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Artificial Intelligence Simulator Designed to Combat Bullying

Jennifer Frank, assistant professor at Penn State University, created an artificial intelligence simulator to help teachers interact with students who are bullied.

Frank and co-principal investigator Deb Schussler created the "chatbot," a system designed to resemble a bullying victim. It allows teachers to chat with a "student" and practice how to handle bullying situations virtually.

When using the program, the user, or teacher, begins the conversation through an interface that looks like a text message. The "victim" then replies with reports of being bullied.

Emily Chukusky and Alex Callopy, research assistants, developed the "victim's" replies by looking at documentaries on bullying to simulate real experiences.

"I grew up in a small town and wasn't bullied myself," Chukusky said in a press release announcing the simulator. "Watching these documentaries and seeing the problems school districts face today was very eye opening. It made me realize that teachers really need to know how to handle these situations and that our project could help."

The simulator will help combat bullying because not every teacher is prepared for these situations, say Frank. Not only are some educators unprepared to deal with a bully victim, but, as Jill Berkowicz and Ann Myers write over at the Leadership 360 blog, adults can contribute to the culture of bullying themselves.

Frank says that by using the simulator, teachers are now able to slow down and think about what to say to a child who has been bullied, instead of feeling the pressure to quickly respond or being unable to respond.

"We often don't know how to respond to many of the most important situations in life, but the way you do respond can really stick with a kid for a lifetime," she said. "If you've thought through and practiced these interactions ahead of time, you're more likely to respond in a positive way."

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