User Validation of an Empathic Virtual Buddy against Cyberbullying.

Delft University of Technology.
Studies in health technology and informatics 09/2012; 181:243-7.
Source: PubMed


People are able to comfort others by talking about their problems. In our research, we are exploring whether computers can provide social support in a similar manner. Recently, we proposed a design for an empathic virtual buddy that supports victims of cyberbullying. To validate our approach in providing social support and to gather feedback from potential users, we performed an experiment (N = 30) to compare interaction with the buddy to reading a text. Both the buddy and the text received high scores; scores for the buddy were consistently higher. The difference was significant for the extent to which feelings were taken into account. These results indicate that participants liked to interact with the buddy and that they recognized the emotional cues emitted by the buddy, thus validating our approach in comforting users.

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    ABSTRACT: Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) constitute suitable tools for interventions with children and adolescents promoting their emotional, psychological and social wellbeing. Recently, in the field of bullying and cyberbullying prevention, some programs started to be implemented using the benefits offered by the virtual environments. The current paper aims to carry out a systematic review on anti-bullying ICT-mediated intervention, analyzing the characteristics of the main programs and the evidence of their effectiveness. The review conducted on three databases (PsycINFO, Scopus and PubMed) yielded 32 full text papers finally evaluated. Overall, considering the enormous development of digital tools and the importance of this experience for young students, the review underlines that ICT tools are generally under-used in prevention and intervention against bullying and cyberbullying (13 programs emerged from the search). In recent years some advances in this direction can be found with use of different ICTs (serious game, virtual reality, online platforms, internet activities, technological solution). The need for scientific studies on the effectiveness of these virtual interventions is evident from this review and necessary in order to assist practitioners, policy makers, and administrators in deciding which interventions can work or not and why.
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