Computers can tame bullies, says new research
Mediation by computers including 'avatars', or computer-generated images of oneself, could bring down incidence of bullying at schools, researchers at the University of Kent found.
An avatar is the graphical representation of the user or the user's alter ego.
It may take either a 3D form, as in games or virtual worlds, or a 2D form, as an icon in Internet forums and online communities.
The six-month University of Kent study involved students aged 12 to 13 years and their use of 'avatars.'
It concluded that the latest gesture and facial recognition technology helps pupils become more positive towards other students, the journal "Computers in Human Behaviour" reports.
Specifically, students using avatars like and trust their partner significantly more. They are also able to produce better ideas to alleviate bullying issues, according to a Kent statement.
Previously, avatar-mediated communication was believed to be less effective than video-mediated communication.
However, newer technologies, which have developed avatars that respond to facial and gesture cues, can improve social interaction.
Jim Ang, digital systems expert, who led the study with Ania Bobrowicz from the University's School of Engineering and Digital Arts, said: "Advances in avatar technology have great potential to transform the way we connect and empathise with each other using computers."
"And, as our research has shown, it's an excellent platform to help young people who are very comfortable with all forms of technology, to resolve conflict in schools," added Ang.