One day Selina, who is seven years old, noticed one of her friends had become withdrawn. Paying closer attention during the school day, she understood that another group of kids had started bullying her friend. Selina realized she didn’t know how long this had been going on – and how easily we can overlook signs of distress, even in our closest friends. Selina wanted that to change – not just for her friend, but for kids everywhere. Selina’s friend isn’t alone, children everywhere face bullying and other forms of emotional and physical violence – the World Health Organization estimates that up to 1 billion children have experienced violence or neglect in the past year.

So, Selina and her mom, Rana, came up with an AI-based tool to help parents and caregivers recognize signs of bullying and violence more quickly. “My Drawings Speak Up” analyzes kids’ drawings using image-recognition technology. The tool looks for patterns that indicate bullying, abuse, and domestic violence, and if it registers any of those patterns in the child’s drawing, the app notifies a trusted adult so they can connect with a qualified professional like a social worker or psychologist.

Finding the deeper message in a child’s drawings

Selina and Rana explain that they chose to focus on children’s drawings “because there are hidden meanings behind drawings due to unconscious thoughts, feelings, and actions.” My Drawings Speak Up earned Selina and Rana entry into the AI World Championship earlier this year, where they won the inspiration award, as well as the people’s choice award. The popularity of the app speaks to how widespread the problem of bullying is.

“My Drawings Speak Up” empowers parents like Rana to intervene and support their children. In a world where technology advances more and more rapidly and new tools and channels for social interaction are constantly coming into popularity, it can be hard to keep on top of your children’s interactions. Bullying and emotional neglect can also be difficult for victims to discuss or share through conversation – but the experience expresses itself in other ways, and “My Drawings Speak Up” helps translate and draw attention to drawings of those experiences. “Everyone has the right to feel safe, loved and accepted,” Selina and Rana explain. We couldn’t agree more.

What problem will you help solve? 

We love this story because it illustrates how much our immediate, local, personal experiences matter, and how when we start solving a local problem affecting our friends and immediate community, we also start work towards a much bigger solution that helps many more people. You can do the same. Think about the complicated, complex problems you, your friends, or your family face, and ask yourself to tackle one piece of the puzzle. Then, sign up to participate in Technovation Families or Technovation Girls. Are you an adult? Do you think you have the empathy and courage it takes to support teams like Rana and Selina as a mentor? We think you do – register as a mentor today.