- ReThink app makes impulsive teens stop and think before posting online
- Software scans for offensive content and creates a warning prompt
- Tech whizz, Trisha Prabhu, 15 from Illinois, was 13 when she devised app
Naomi Greenaway for MailOnline
07:51 EST, 27 December 2015
07:51 EST, 27 December 2015
A game-changing app, which forces teenagers to rethink offensive remarks before posting them online, has been manufactured to stamp out the problem of online trolls.
The sophisticated software, known as reThink, is the brain child of tech whiz, Trisha Prabhu, 15, from Illinois, who was only 13 when she devised the technology.
The premise behind it is simple: teenagers are impulsive and would be less likely to post offensive messages if they paused before posting anything, which is exactly what ReThink enables them to do.
Tech whiz, Trisha Prabhu, 15 from Illinois, was 13 when she devised ReThink, an app to tackle cyber bullying
The app scans messages or posts for offensive content and creates a warning prompt such as ‘Would you like to pause, review and ReThink before typing anything that may be offensive?’ as pictured, left, on a mobile device. The app also creates alerts on emails (right) and social network posts
The software scans messages or posts for offensive content and creates a warning prompt such as ‘Is this message worthy of you?’
Trisha ran 1,500 scientific trials and found that when adolescents received a ReThink prompt, they changed their minds 93 per cent of the time.
Speaking to FEMAIL, Trisha, who was a finalist at Google’s Science Fair, which recognises the world’s brightest young minds, explained: ‘In the spur of the moment or under peer pressure, many kids post offensive messages online without realising the extent of the damage they are causing.
‘But, as my research shows, if they are provided a chance to pause, review and ReThink their decision to post this message, kids change their minds and decide to not post a hurtful message.
‘ReThink is a simple, innovative, transformational solution that changes bulIies’ behaviour and helps develop sound decision-making skills on and off internet.’
A study last year by UK anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found seven in ten young people are victims of cyber bullying and 37 per cent of them are experiencing it on a highly frequent basis.
Trisha Prabhu, pictured at TEDxTeen, held in London, said: ‘In the spur of the moment or under peer-pressure, many kids post offensive messages online without realising the extent of the damage they are causing’
Trisha decided to tackle the issue in 2013 after learning about an 11-year-old girl from Florida who committed suicide after being repeatedly bullied online.
‘I was shocked, heartbroken and angry,’ Trisha said. ‘How could a girl younger than me be pushed to take her own life?
‘I started thinking about what I could do to stop this from ever happening again. I have always been fascinated by the inner workings of the brain.
‘When I read that news story about cyber bullying suicide, I wondered what caused adolescents to actually post mean and hurtful messages?’
Trisha embarked on a science project for school to analyse whether age affects willingness to post hurtful messages. Results from the project found adolescents were 50 per cent more willing than adults to do so.
‘The results didn’t surprise me,’ said Trisha.
Devoted to the cause, Trisha then performed an extensive study of the adolescent brain and how it develops over the years. And something in particular caught her attention.
Trisha ran 1,500 scientific trials and found that when adolescents received a ReThink prompt, they changed their minds 93 per cent of the time
‘There is one single part of the brain that alone takes close to 25 years to fully develop and that is responsible for decision making skills.
‘Don’t we have a problem here? Could this be why adolescents make rash, impulsive decisions? Could this be why they are more willing to post hurtful messages on the internet?
‘Overcome by the passion to stop my fellow adolescents cyber bullying others, I carried out this project to find a solution to stop these hurtful messages from being posted.’
And so the the software for ReThink was born, which approaches the issue of cyber bullying from a totally new direction.
Until ReThink launched, social media sites were trying to stop cyber bullying using what Trisha calls a ‘stop, block and tell’ method. The idea is that if teens receive an offensive message, they stop what you are doing, block the bully and tell an adult.
‘While it sounds good on paper, it does not work in reality,’ explained Trisha.
‘Research shows that nine out of ten kids do not tell anyone. They suffer in silence. Cyberbullying is a silent pandemic.
‘Research has found that 52 per cent of adolescents online in the US alone have been cyber bullied. A quarter of the world’s population is adolescents – we’re talking 1.8 billion teens.
Trisha sees ReThink as a movement and has already been invited to spread her message at international platforms including the White House as well as conferences in London, Mumbai and Mexico
‘The majority of us are on social media – and the number of adolescents around the world being cyber bullied continues to grow.
‘It’s an electronic and insidious form of verbal abuse and just like real-life bullying; victims experience depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, increased drop-out rates and suicidal tendencies.
‘Recent research, conducted in UK, indicates that the harmful effect of cyber bullying lasts well into a person’s 50s and 60s.
‘As the technological revolution continues to unfold, the more kids get online and the scourge of cyber bullying continues to grow.’
Trisha admits she has experienced bullying first-hand but says she would let the taunts wash over her.
‘I had been cyber bullied regarding my wardrobe choices when I was young, but I considered myself a strong girl,’ she said.
‘I never let any of those bother me. When I read about this cyber bullying suicide, I realised that there must be many young kids that are suffering from cyber bullying.
‘My research showed that over 52 per cent of the adolescents online in the US have been a victim of cyber bullying or have witnessed it happen. I started thinking about what I could do to stop this from ever happening again.’
‘We are in the midst of social media revolution. Kids as young as age seven or eight are getting on social media. Technology and the internet gives kids great power.’
Silent pandemic: UK anti-bullying charity Ditch the Label found seven in ten young people are victims of cyber bullying and 37 per cent of them are experiencing it on a highly frequent basis
‘But with that power comes great responsibility that the kids are not ready for yet,’ she said.
Beyond it’s guise as an app, which is free to download for android and Apple devices, Trisha sees ReThink as a movement and has already been invited to spread her message at international platforms – including the White House and TEDxTeen in London as well as conferences in Mumbai, Mexico and elsewhere in America.
‘My goal is to raise awareness about the ReThink mind-set amongst my peers around the world,’ she said.
Trisha has also launched a ReThink ambassador programme, which encourages schools and communities to nominate two students on the website www.rethinkwords.com to become ambassadors for the anti-bullying concept.
As well as being awarded the Google Science Fair Global Finalist award, she has also received the International Diana award for anti-bullying and the Daily Points of Light award from the George W Bush foundation.
‘All of those awards and accolades would mean so much more if I am able to get ReThink in the hands of millions of kids at no cost to them,’ she said.
‘My plan is to get ReThink out in the hands of every adolescent at no cost to them. I am working to build ReThink in various international languages for mobile and desktop computers around the world.’
Download the app for your teenager and nominate a ReThink ambassador at www.rethinkwords.com