I was neither big enough nor angry enough to be a bully in school, but I still harbour a feeling of guilt at the memory of laughing when a chap called Ian was taunted about his weight. He and I became friends afterwards, and though I don’t know where he is now, I remember how frightened and miserable he was, often feeling that his life wasn’t worth living. I thought of him recently when I read about a research project that began in 2006. An EU-funded project called eCIRCUS, is developing two computer software programs to help deal with bullying and stereotyping. Researchers set out to create virtual worlds with characters that children could interact and empathise with, in such a way that the experience could change their own attitudes and behaviour. The theory is that education about human social interaction must include feelings. If the research could find a way to get children to empathise with and try to help victims of bullying in a virtual world, the children could try out different strategies, experience the results, and develop better ways to deal with bullying in their own lives. Though still in development the two new programs – one targeting younger children and the other an older age range – have shown promising results. It is hoped that they may help solve a major social problem. It’s obviously too late to help Ian but there are no doubt thousands of children whose lives could be a lot less miserable if it is even marginally successful.