Category: bullying

Facebook deepfake ban

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Notre Dame Expert: Host of problems with Facebook deepfake ban

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Tim Weninger, associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at the University of Notre Dame, says Facebook’s newly announced ban on deepfakes is good news for democracy but presents a number of challenges in the fight against the spread of misinformation.

Weninger is an expert in disinformation and fake news, web and social media, data mining and machine learning.

“This is good news for democracy and a good business policy for Facebook, whose users don’t want to be lied to by the content they see,” Weninger said. “If Facebook becomes flooded by fake or misleading content, then users will abandon the site.”

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But, Weninger adds, the policy presents a host of problems and challenges.

“Most obvious is the technological question of how will Facebook determine which content is AI faked and which is not. It’s clear that deepfake technology will soon be usable by the masses. And when that happens, Facebook won’t have the capacity to filter fake videos manually. Notre Dame and others are working on deepfake detectors, but these automatic detectors won’t catch everything. 

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“Second is the actual effect that this deepfake ban will have on the actual problem. It’s often said that ‘a lie can travel around the world before the truth can get its pants on.’ So, if a deepfake is created, shared and quickly taken down, the damage is done — it will live forever. And there is little that a maligned political candidate or brand can do to fix it.

“In my opinion, deepfakes are some mix of identity theft and slander. And there ought to be a legal remedy or judicial recourse available to the victims of deepfakes.”

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Black Teens Face Racial Discrimination Multiple Times Daily

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Teens in study experience anti-black microaggressions most frequently online, according to Rutgers researcher

Black teenagers experience daily racial discrimination, most frequently online, which can lead to negative mental health effects, according to a Rutgers researcher.

The study, published in the Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, examined how often black teens experience racial discrimination each day – either personally or vicariously and online or offline.

The researchers surveyed 101 black youth between ages 13 and 17 from predominantly black neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., each day for two weeks about their experiences with racial discrimination and measured changes in their depressive symptoms across that period. The teens reported more than 5,600 experiences of racial discrimination in total – an average of more than five experiences per day.

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“This research reflects what researchers and activists have asserted for years: Black adolescents are forced to face antiblack microaggressions on a daily basis. Importantly, this study expands the research on the many ways that discrimination happens, whether it is being teased by peers, asked to speak for their racial group in class or seeing a racist post on social media,” said lead author Devin English, an assistant professor at Rutgers School of Public Health.

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The experiences reported in the study, which ranged from teasing about physical appearance to overt discrimination, mainly occurred online and led to short-term increases in depressive symptoms. Examples of discrimination included teasing by peers about wearing their hair natural, seeing jokes about their race online and witnessing a family member or friend being treated poorly due to their race or ethnicity.

“Racial teasing is important because it is one of the most common ways adolescents communicate about race,” English noted. “Critically, young people and adults, such as teachers, often see this teasing as harmless and choose not to address it. Our results, however, show several types of racial teasing are harmful for black adolescents.”

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“Although public discourse can indirectly or directly blame health inequities on black youth, our study provides evidence that racial discrimination in society is a fundamental cause of these health inequities,” he continued. “Knowing this, people in positions of power such as clinicians, school administrators and policy makers have a responsibility to consider discrimination as a critical aspect of the daily experience and health of black teens. Racial discrimination prevention should be a public health imperative.”

Children of abused mothers

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Photo by Jen Theodore

50% more likely to have low IQ

Children of women who reported domestic violence in pregnancy or during the first six years of the child’s life are almost 50% more likely to have a low IQ at age 8, research finds.

In the study by University of Manchester epidemiologists, 13% of children whose mothers did not experience domestic violence had an IQ of below 90 at 8 years of age.

If their mothers experienced physical violence from their partner either in pregnancy or during the first six years of the child’s life, the figure rises to 22.8%.

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The team led by Dr Kathryn Abel from The University of Manchester show the chance of a low IQ rises to 34.6% if the mother was repeatedly exposed to domestic violence.

That means children with mothers who repeatedly suffer domestic violence during pregnancy and the first six years of their child’s life are almost three times more likely to have a low IQ at 8 years of age, find researchers.

Low IQ is defined as an IQ score less than 90, where a normal IQ is considered to be 100.

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The study examined the link between domestic violence – also called Intimate partner violence (IPV) – and child intelligence at 8 year’s old, using 3,997 mother child pairs from The University of Bristol’s Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children.

The study, funded by the Wellcome Trust and Medical Research Council, is published in Wellcome Open Research.

ALSPAC follows children from pregnancy, and measures emotional and physical domestic violence – also known as intimate partner violence – from pregnancy until eight years of age.

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The intelligence of the children was measured at eight years using the Weschler standardised IQ test.

Dr Abel said: “We already know that 1 in 4 women age 16 and over in England and Wales will experience domestic violence in their lifetime and that their children are at greater risk of physical, social and behavioural problems.

“We also know that intelligence in childhood is strongly linked with doing well in adulthood, though there has been little evidence about the risk of low IQ for these children.

“While we cannot conclude that IPV causes low IQ, these findings demonstrate domestic violence has a measurable link, by mid-childhood, independent of other risk factors for low IQ.”

17.6% of the mothers in the study reported emotional violence and 6.8% reported physical violence.

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The findings are independent of other risk factors for low IQ such as alcohol and tobacco use in pregnancy, maternal depression, low maternal education and financial hardship around the child’s birth.

There is some disagreement on whether the IQ test is a complete measure of intelligence, as it only considers verbal and non-verbal intelligence

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However, it is regarded as useful by many experts because a high IQ has been demonstrated in many countries and cultures to associate with a broad range of improved social and health outcomes.

Dr Hein Heuvelman, from The University of Bristol added: “Exposure to domestic violence is common for children in the UK and an important and often overlooked risk factor in their life chances.

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“So knowing the extent to which these already vulnerable children are further affected is a powerful argument for more, better and earlier intervention.

“Current support for women experiencing domestic violence is inadequate in some areas and absent in others.

“Early intervention with these families protects children from harm, but it may also prioritise their future development.”

Five tips to reduce the chances of abduction

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Photo by Jaanus Jagomägi

The holidays are quickly approaching, and many people are gearing up for the holiday shopping craze. With the malls and grocery stores heavily congested, anyone can become a victim of abduction.

Stacy Moak, Ph.D., professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham in the College of Arts and Sciences Department of Social Work, says no one can be 100 percent safe from abduction. However, as a general rule, people need to be aware of their environment at all times.

Here are five best practices that can help reduce the chances of abduction:

  1. Always have your keys in-hand. Moak suggests getting your keys ready prior to leaving the inside of a building in case you need to quickly access the inside of your vehicle.
  2. Do not stand next to your vehicle in the dark fumbling through your bags. “You are vulnerable to the element of surprise in that situation,” Moak said. “Avoid going places alone after dark, especially if you are in a place that is not familiar to you.”
  3. Look inside your vehicle before you get in, especially when it has been parked in a parking terminal or lot. Moak says this is a great practice and encourages everyone to be aware of their surroundings when leaving a mall or grocery store.
  4. Teach your children danger signs. “As for parents of young children, it is impossible to be with your child every second of every day, but teaching them danger signs — like do not talk to adults you do not know in the park or on the playground — can make a big difference in helping to avoid abduction,” Moak said. “Teach your children to not accept candy or gifts from someone they do not know. These are all standard tips that we have heard over and over, but they still remain true today. If you are unable to supervise your child, make sure another adult is available or in reach of your child.” 
  5. Do not leave your children in public parks or playgrounds unattended. Moak says parents have so many responsibilities, mostly due to work schedules that do not always align with school schedules. That is when community support can be vital. “As a community, we need to support each other to make parenting easier,” Moak said. “We don’t seem to honor the ideal that it takes a village to raise a child. It is always easier to judge than to support, but that will not address the problem in our society.”

 Moak emphasizes that people should pay close attention to their surroundings when in public every day.

“Watch what is going on around you,” Moak said. “That’s the fastest way to ward off a potential criminal — by looking them in the eyes. Most would-be offenders will alter their course of action if they fear they can be identified by someone.”

Most importantly, being aware of what is happening around you — and not ignoring things that seem out of sorts — is a critical crime-prevention tool.

About UAB
Known for its innovative and interdisciplinary approach to education at both the graduate and undergraduate levels, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is an internationally renowned research university and academic medical center, as well as Alabama’s largest employer, with some 23,000 employees, and has an annual economic impact exceeding $7 billion on the state. The five pillars of UAB’s mission include education, research, patient care, community service and economic development. UAB is a two-time recipient of the prestigious Center for Translational Science Award. Learn more at www.uab.edu. UAB: Powered by will.

Bullying children with autism

Photo by Quin Stevenson

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BINGHAMTON, NY – Children with autism spectrum disorder (ASD) are more likely to experience bullying than children without ASD and this bullying gets worse with age, according to new research from Binghamton University, State University of New York.

Hannah Morton, a graduate student in the clinical psychology PhD program at Binghamton University, aimed to conceptualize bullying in children with ASD in order to specifically identify different bullying and behavior types. Her research also emphasizes the need to establish better definitions of bullying behaviors.

“This research is important because it contributes to our understanding of how bullying is nuanced,” said Morton. “This variability means it is crucial to establish a definition for bullying and have standard assessments to know when and what types of bullying are occurring.”

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Morton, along with Binghamton psychologists Jennifer Gillis, Richard Mattson and Raymond Romanczyk, focused this study on teachers and parents of children with ASD, and community members without an ASD child. Participants took a survey containing 80 scenarios of interactions between two school-aged children. The scenarios varied from children ages four to fifteen. Sixty-four of these scenarios contained a type of bullying behavior (i.e. physical, verbal, interpersonal and cyber). The participants were randomly presented with 16 scenarios, and were asked to rate the severity of the interaction between the two children, as well as indicate which types of bullying were present.

Results showed that a child’s increased age predicted higher bullying severity ratings. The findings also showed that bullying among older children with ASD is viewed as especially problematic by their parents, and that perceived bullying severity differed according to the type of bullying behavior (i.e., physical, verbal, interpersonal, and cyber). 

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“This paper emphasizes that bullying is a really broad construct,” said Morton. “What any two people might be referring to when they use the term ‘bullying’—regardless if they are parents, teachers, researchers, etc.— likely differs, and perhaps in subtle ways.”

Morton plans to further her research on this topic by focusing specifically on the bullying behaviors that children with ASD experience compared to children without ASD.

This research was conducted through Binghamton University’s Institute for Child Development, which offers early intervention services, speech services and more to children and families in the Binghamton region. 

The paper, “Conceptualizing bullying in children with autism spectrum disorder: Using a mixed model to differentiate behavior types and identify predictors,” was published in Autism.

Medicinal Cannabis Research

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Researchers will look at how CBD might help remedy schizophrenia, rheumatoid arthritis, insomnia, alcohol dependence and anorexia anxiety

The Center for Medicinal Cannabis Research (CMCR) at University of California San Diego School of Medicine, the nation’s oldest research center for scientific inquiry into the safety and efficacy of cannabis, has announced $3 million in research grants to explore new applications of cannabis for a number of novel medical applications.

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The cannabis plant produces a number of compounds called cannabinoids, the most widely known of which are tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), its principle psychoactive agent, and cannabidiol (CBD), which has been linked to reduced pain, anxiety and inflammation in previous studies. The five new studies all focus on CBD.

“Within the medical community, there is a lot of interest in the role of medical cannabis and CBD,” said Igor Grant, MD, Distinguished Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and CMCR director. “There is a hope that it could be yet another useful agent in some of these conditions, which are difficult to treat or disabling.”

The five grants are funded by California Proposition 64, which was passed on the November 8, 2016 ballot and legalized recreational marijuana in the state. The measure allocated tax revenue for research on potential new drugs, treatment and health and safety programs related to marijuana and medical cannabis.

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This year marks CMCR’s first such funding. All five grants are for proof-of-principle studies that would seek to establish the basis for future research.

Effects of Cannabidiol versus Placebo as an Adjunct to Treatment in Early Psychosis

The $825,000 grant was awarded to Kristin Cadenhead, MD, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues, who will explore whether medical cannabis could serve as an alternative treatment for patients facing early psychosis, a time when traditional treatments, such as antipsychotic medications, are moderately effective but produce debilitating side effects.

Therapeutic Response of Cannabidiol in Rheumatoid Arthritis

The $825,000 grant was awarded to Veena Ranganath, MD, a rheumatologist at UCLA Medical Center. Ranganath’s research focuses on CBD’s use an anti-inflammatory agent, an application she hopes to exploit in treating rheumatoid arthritis, a chronic autoimmune condition that affects an estimated 1.5 million persons in the United States.

Cannabidol for Sedative/Hypnotic-sparing Management of Insomnia in Adults

The $825,000 grant was awarded to Mariana Cherner, PhD, professor of psychiatry at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues, who will investigate whether CBD might be a viable alternative for sleeping pills among patients with chronic sleep disorders.

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“Sleeping pills are moderately safe but they can also be habit-forming and they do have side effects, particularly in older people,” said Grant. “So many people are prescribed sleeping pills so there’s good reason to look for something that might be safer and not have that side effect profile.”

Cannabidiol as a Strategy to Treat Alcohol Dependence

The $300,000 grant was awarded to Giordano de Guglielmo, PhD, assistant adjunct professor in the UC San Diego Skaggs School of Pharmacy and Pharmaceutical Sciences, and colleagues. This study is the only one of the five using an animal model. It will look at the role CBD might play in reducing alcohol cravings and withdrawal syndromes among alcohol-addicted rats, with findings perhaps applicable to future human research.

The Role of Cannabidiol in Regulating Meal Time Anxiety in Anorexia Nervosa

The $300,000 grant was awarded to Emily Gray, MD, associate clinical professor of psychology at UC San Diego School of Medicine, and colleagues, who will explore whether CBD can help reduce a core symptom of anorexia — anxiety about food — and whether or not that reduction helps patients also reduce their food aversions overall.

A second round of CMCR grants is scheduled for 2020.

Autism Study Stresses Importance of Communicating with All Infants

Photo by Zoltan Tasi

Language Skills Can Benefit from Parents’ Early Support, Interactions.

University of Texas at Dallas

Dr. Meghan Swanson, assistant professor at The University of Texas at Dallas, is the corresponding author of the study, published online June 28 in Autism Research. It is the first to extend research about the relationship between caregiver speech and infant language development from typically developing children to those with autism. The findings could inform guidelines for earlier action in cases of developmental difficulties.

A new language-skills study that included infants later diagnosed with autism suggests that all children can benefit from exposure to more speech from their caregivers.

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“You can diagnose autism at 24 months at the earliest; most people are diagnosed much later. Early intervention, from birth to age 3, has shown to be effective at supporting development in various cohorts of children,” said Swanson, who joined the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences in January as the director of the Infant Neurodevelopment & Language Research Lab, known as the Baby Brain Lab.

She said there has been a push to identify autism earlier or demonstrate that the same techniques that help most children develop language skills also benefit those eventually diagnosed with autism.

The study involved 96 babies, 60 of whom had an older sibling with autism. Swanson said that this “baby-sibling” research design was necessary.

“How do you study autism in infancy when you can’t diagnose it until the kids are age 2 at least?” she asked. “The answer relies on the fact that autism tends to run in families. These younger siblings have about a 20% chance of being diagnosed eventually with autism.”

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Indeed, 14 children from the high-risk subset of 60 were diagnosed with autism at 24 months.

The study results directly tied the number of words an infant hears, as well as the conversational turns he or she takes, to the performance on the 24-month language evaluation — both for typical children and those with autism.

“One conclusion we’ve come to is that parents should be persistent in talking with their babies even if they aren’t getting responses,” Swanson said.

Swanson emphasized how important large, longitudinal studies — tracking the same individuals across an extended period — like this one are in her field.

“You have to follow the same children for years to learn anything conclusive about development,” she said. “You can’t simply shift from a group of 2-year-olds to a different group of 3-year-olds and so on.”

Correcting the misunderstanding of parents’ influence in autism has been a gradual fight against outdated conceptions, Swanson said.

“When parents receive an autism diagnosis for a child, some might wonder, ‘What could I have done differently?’” she said. “There is no scientific backing for them to think in these terms. But there is a dark history in autism where parents were wrongly blamed, which reinforced these thoughts. To do research involving mothers as we have, you must approach that topic with sensitivity but also firmly reinforce that the logic that parenting style can cause autism is flawed.”

The children’s interactions with caregivers were recorded over two days — once at nine months and again at 15 months — via a LENA (Language Environment Analysis) audio recorder. The children’s language skills were then assessed at 24 months.

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“The LENA software counts conversational turns anytime an adult vocalizes and the infant responds, or vice versa,” Swanson said. “The definition is not related to the content of the speech, just that the conversation partner responds. We believe that responding to infants when they talk supports infant development, regardless of eventual autism diagnosis.”

The project was undertaken by the Infant Brain Imaging Study (IBIS) network, a consortium of eight universities in the United States and Canada funded by the National Institutes of Health as an Autism Center of Excellence. Before joining UT Dallas, Swanson was a postdoctoral fellow at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, one of IBIS’ study sites. The other study sites are Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Washington University in St. Louis, the University of Washington in Seattle and the University of Minnesota Twin Cities campus.

Dr. Joseph Piven, the IBIS network’s principal investigator, is the director of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities at UNC-Chapel Hill. For parents, the results should highlight the long-term effect of initiating conversations from an early age, he said.

“Talking to your kids makes a big difference,” Piven said. “Any impact on early language skills will almost certainly have an impact on a wide range of later abilities in school-age children and significantly enhance their probability of success.”

Swanson said the most important takeaway from this work is that parents can make a significant difference in language development, even in children who are eventually diagnosed with autism.

“Parents can be amazing agents of change in their infants’ lives from as early as 9 months old,” she said. “If we teach parents how to provide their children with a rich communication environment, it helps support their children’s development. I find that incredibly hopeful — the power that parents have to be these positive role models.”

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In addition to UT Dallas and the IBIS study sites, researchers from Temple University, Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania, McGill University and the University of Alberta contributed to this study. The Simons Foundation also supported the research.

Bullying Worsens Sleep and Depression

BUFFALO, N.Y.

Teens who experience cyber bullying are more likely to suffer from poor sleep, which in turn raises levels of depression, found a University at Buffalo study.

Although research has examined the relationship between online bullying and depression, the UB study is one of few to explore the connection between cyber victimization and sleep quality.

The study surveyed more than 800 adolescents for sleep quality, cyber aggression and depression.

The research will be presented by Misol Kwon, first author and doctoral student in the UB School of Nursing, at SLEEP 2019, the 33rd annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in San Antonio, Texas from June 8-12.

“Cyber victimization on the internet and social media is a unique form of peer victimization and an emerging mental health concern among teens who are digital natives,” said Kwon. “Understanding these associations supports the need to provide sleep hygiene education and risk prevention and interventions to mistreated kids who show signs and symptoms of depression.”

Nearly one third of teens have experienced symptoms of depression, which, in addition to changes in sleep pattern, include persistent irritability, anger and social withdrawal, according to the U.S. Office of Adolescent Health.

And nearly 15 percent of U.S. high school students report being bullied electronically, says Kwon. At severe levels, depression may lead to disrupted school performance, harmed relationships or suicide.

The risks of allowing depression to worsen highlight the need for researchers and clinicians to understand and target sleep quality and other risk factors that have the potential to exacerbate the disorder.

The research was supported by a $1.8 million grant from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism in the National Institutes of Health awarded to Jennifer Livingston, PhD, principal investigator and associate professor in the UB School of Nursing.

Additional UB School of Nursing investigators include Suzanne Dickerson, DNS, professor and chair of the Department of Biobehavioral Health and Clinical Sciences; and Eunhee Park, PhD, assistant professor. Young Seo, doctoral candidate in the UB Graduate School of Education, is also an investigator.