New York: A social computer game designed by researchers at the University of Illinois has been found to detect bullying behaviour that had eluded detection by traditional research methods or in cases when victims do not self-report, a study claims.
The game allows researchers to analyse the behaviour of children in real time and identify bullying behaviour, whether it occurs face to face or online.
It is an improvement over traditional research methods, such as questionnaires, which do not assess interactions between youth in real time, the researchers said.
“What we wanted was to have more real-time information and to include advancements in computer science to process the data and get more insights into it so we could understand the problem of bullying better and create interventions,” said lead author Juan Mancilla-Caceres.
The students playing the game must answer two sets of five trivia questions.
The researchers tested the game with 97 students in six classrooms.
The students, all fifth-graders, had earlier been surveyed about various types of bullying, fighting, leadership and domineering behaviour, as well as their attitudes and friends’ perceived attitudes toward victimising and defending peers.
Analysis of the 7,800 messages that the participants exchanged over the chat interface were compared to the survey data, and the researchers found that the game was effective at evaluating player interactions and detecting bullying.
“Bullies played the game very differently than their classmates who were non-bullies or victims,” co-author Dorothy Espelage pointed out.
Bullies sent more private messages, peeked at the correct answer more often and sent more negative nominations, Espelage added.
The findings appeared in the Journal of School Violence.