With Watson, Guardio helps parents protect kids from cyberbullying

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Cyberbullying presents a huge challenge for parents and children. Online harassment affects more than half of adolescents, but most cases are not reported.

Cyberbullying is more invasive than traditional bullying. Victims can no longer leave their bullies at the school gates. Instead, the threats and insults follow them everywhere, day and night. Most perpetrators are more aggressive online than in face-to-face interactions because they don’t see the victim’s reaction.

Beyond that, cyberbullying is largely invisible and can be difficult for parents to understand. It’s a threat that we never faced during our own childhoods.

Smartphone ownership, internet usage and social media participation among children are high and climbing, and kids are exposed to these risks at ever-younger ages.

Leaders at Guardio, a not-for-profit startup, recognized the challenge and asked, “How can we help?”

Technology as the solution, not the problem

Guardio launched a free service that uses AI technology to filter through children’s social media activity to identify cases of cyberbullying, then sends the relevant messages to parents. To identify likely incidents of bullying, Guardio harnesses rich textual analysis from IBM Watson Natural Language Classifier and IBM Watson Natural Language Understanding delivered through the IBM Cloud.

Guardio’s service currently supports WhatsApp and Instagram, which between them cover 80 percent of social media usage among children under 14. The company hopes to extend the solution to other platforms such as Facebook and Snapchat in the near future.

Crucially, Guardio’s service offers two powerful advantages over traditional parental controls. First, children enjoy greater privacy, as the solution notifies parents exclusively about messages likely to indicate bullying. Second, the service does not block content, so children get a better user experience when they surf the web.

Effective protection delivered with AI

Guardio’s minimum viable product garnered excellent feedback from parents, who felt greater peace of mind that their children were safe online. Parents know that the platform is extremely accurate in detecting bullying; the rate of false-positives is just 0.01 percent.

IBM has provided enormous help on the journey. Guardio participates in the IBM Global Entrepreneur program, which provides excellent support. Crucially, the Watson services are highly effective in determining messages that constitute a threat, and they were easy to use and deploy. Guardio built the solution in just six months. That wouldn’t have been possible without the IBM Watson services and the cloud deployment method.

It’s still the early days, and Guardio’s main focus is on raising awareness about the platform and growing its user base. In the future, we hope to expand the service to support teenagers and address other threats that the internet can pose to young people, such as eating disorders and grooming by sexual predators.

As Guardio broadens its focus and expands the user base, the IBM Cloud will seamlessly scale to support growing numbers of users.

Read the case study for more details.

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