New Educational Tool Helps Visualize the Impact of Peer Victimization on a Teenager’s Brain
With nearly one in five adolescents bullied across the nation, STOMP Out Bullying announces a first-of-its-kind AI platform, Emma, designed to help reduce bullying. Developed with consultation from Dr. Jeff Gardere, one of the most widely sought-after experts in the field of mental health, and an Associate Professor of Behavioral Medicine at the Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine in NYC, Emma is a technically advanced education tool programed to process thousands of negative social media posts and simulate the effects of bullying on a teenager’s brain.
“Having supported more than five million students through STOMP Out Bullying, we know that although cyberbullying can have a dramatic and long-term impact on mental health, early interventions can help,” said Ross Ellis, CEO of STOMP Out Bullying. “We created Emma as an innovative tool to help teens, educators and parents visualize the impact of cyberbullying on the adolescent brain, so they can take action and drive positive change.”
For the first time, scientists have proven the impact of peer victimization on adolescent brain development through a new study from E.B. Quinlan et all. Medical Research Council, King’s College London, London, UK. Data shows the experience of chronic bullying during adolescence may induce psychopathology-relevant deviations from normative brain development. Furthermore, the study found that peer victimization positively associates with anxiety symptoms indirectly, via these changes in the brain.
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“Through science, we see that kids really do suffer emotionally, not just physically from bullying,” said Dr. Jeff Gardere. “I believe that Emma could be an incredible teaching tool because if we can help teens understand what happens when bullying occurs, we can empower them to do better.”
“Understanding STOMP Out Bullying’s goal to help create a positive shift in culture for teens everywhere, we wanted to take on the technical challenge of constructing Emma,” said Mauricio Ruiz, Creative Technology Director of Grey New York. “We created Emma to act as a technical persona of adolescents, to become a tool that kids everywhere can relate to, learn from and feel empowered by.”
Created based on clinical studies, Emma will process thousands of cyberbullying posts, understanding natural language and intent in each of the comments. She then associates the level of toxicity based on a scale ranging (-20, 20), with toxic comments sparking a systemic effect in Emma’s architecture based on real scientific data from the new study. Emma’s “vitals” (connection of computer functions to human functions) include:
- CPU: Correlates to the putamen, a part of the brain that affects motor functions, reward sensitivity and higher cognitive processing like executive learning, working memory, and sequence learning.
- Memory: Correlates to the caudate, a part of the brain that contributes to reward sensitivity, motivation, conditioning, attention, and emotional processing.
- Temperature: Correlates to the anxiety levels in the human brain associated with decreased caudate and putamen volumes.
- Data Volume: The amount of content to which the brain is exposed.
Every second, Emma’s system uses machine learning to identify and internalize thousands of bullying comments on social media. For every negative comment, Emma faces similar emotional, physical, and psychological effects as a teenager’s brain does when being bullied.