Thousands of children are bullied every day at school. It is one of the main reasons for absence and poor performance in school, and some children have even taken their own lives because of it. Now the creators of a new interactive role play game called Fear Not hope to help alleviate bullying and its consequences by allowing schoolchildren to observe its effects on other children and offer advice to an imaginary victim.
More than 1 000 children throughout Europe are part of the computer game’s pilot study, which aims to explore the impact that computer software could have on reducing bullying in schools. Fear
Not has been developed by scientists and researchers in Germany, Portugal and the UK. The researchers are all members of "Kaleidoscope", a pan-European research network on technology-enhanced learning. Children play the part of an "invisible friend" who watches a bullying scenario and offers advice and help to the victim. The creators of the programme hope that by watching the programme children will reflect on bullying and its consequences, develop empathy with the victim and devise coping strategies for possible real life situations.
'This 3D interactive virtual environment provides a safe haven for individual
children where they can witness bullying scenarios without being directly involved,'
says Rui Figueiredo, a scientist at the Instituto de Engenharia de Sistemas e
Computadores in Portugal, who was one of the Kaleidescope researchers on the
project. 'We use emergent narrative techniques which enable the learner to direct
the path the story should follow.'
Bullying is the most prevalent form of violence in society, and between 15 and 30 percent of schoolchildren are either bullies or victims of bullying. An estimated 160 000 children miss school every day because of bullying, which ranges from verbal abuse and name calling to blackmail, theft and physical assault. Over two thirds of schoolchildren and their parents believe that schools don’t do enough to stop bullying.
The Kaleidoscope Network of Excellence is a consortium of over 90 institutions and research laboratories, as well as more than 1 000 researchers from Europe and Canada. At a symposium that will take place on 26 to 28 November in Berlin they will present their work, discuss current research trends and outline the latest scientific achievements in the field of interactive software. There will also be an opportunity for a wide range of experts from education and business and policy-making institutes to make a contribution to discussions on shaping the future of interactive software.
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