February 27, 2018 | Written by: Tina Meier
Categorized: AI/Watson | Social Service
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An astonishing 87% of youth have witnessed cyberbullying. In 2017 alone, over 13 million American children were bullied or cyberbullied.
For me, the struggle against bullying and cyberbullying is a personal one. In October of 2006, my 13-year-old daughter Megan took her own life as a result of cyberbullying. Committed to helping prevent similar tragedies, I founded the Megan Meier Foundation, a non-profit dedicated to supporting and inspiring actions to end bullying and cyberbullying.
Since its inception in December 2007, our Foundation has reached over 305,000 students, parents, and educators in 270 communities and 38 states. By spreading Megan’s story and educating others on internet safety and the consequences of bullying and cyberbullying, I hope to end these occurrences, helping one child at a time cope with these negative social issues.
Using artificial intelligence to combat cyberbullying
In 2016, Identity Guard began consulting with our Foundation and other cyberbullying experts to build an effective solution that protects children and teens without invading their privacy. Using the power of artificial intelligence, Identity Guard’s cyberbullying features monitor the social media feeds to which both parents and children have given it access.
With IBM Watson technologies that enable natural language processing (NLP) and natural language classifiers (NLC), the solution is able to understand and categorize what individuals are sending and receiving. Complex algorithms then identify instances, or potential instances, of cyberbullying or self-harm. If a threat is identified, it triggers an alert that is sent parents.
Within the alert are screenshots that include the dates and times of what caused the warning. If parents agree that this is an instance of cyberbullying or potential self-harm, they are guided to a suite of free resources—including guidance on state laws and school policies—to help them figure out how to respond.
Parents are also directed to my Foundation, where, at no charge, they can talk to an individual to air their concerns, review a checklist of actions, and take a breath before they respond—ensuring that they act from an informed position rather than a state of panic.
Allaying fears while empowering kids and parents
Given the proliferation of mobile devices and social media, parents often feel overwhelmed when it comes to their kids engaging online. We’ve worked hard with Identity Guard to create a solution that provides a safe means of engagement. Children and teens can participate in social media with their privacy intact; with parents receiving alerts only if issues are identified.
For the past decade, my Foundation has focused on listening to parents, kids and educators to help them getter a better idea of how to respond, and what actions can be done to help curb bullying and cyberbullying threats.
With this experience and knowledge, we’ve created resources that better equip parents so they can start a dialog with their kids about bullying, cyberbullying and suicide. We focus on helping both parent and child realize that they can address these issues together, as they both learn about what each can do to respond.
Creating a safe environment for our kids
Technology isn’t bad; rather it’s how we use it. Social media can be scary for parents as their kids begin to get online, but our Foundation is working with Identity Guard to help parents be knowledgeable and stay informed, while enabling kids to stay safely engaged.
I dream of a world where bullying and cyberbullying no longer exist, for I know firsthand of the possible devastating consequences. I believe that through empowering our society to celebrate individuality and the acceptance of others, we can work together to make a difference and create a safer and kinder world. Identity Guard’s cyberbullying features are a helpful first step in this direction.