Bullying is not a new phenomenon. Even if you haven’t personally experienced it, you likely know some who has been bullied, or have seen it happen to someone else. So have our parents, and most likely their parents too. Adults can be bullies too, but children and adolescents are much more likely to act without thinking, making it much more of a problem for the younger generation.
What is a relatively new phenomenon, however, is cyber bullying. After hearing about a young girl who was bullied to the point that she decided to commit suicide, 14-year-old Trisha Prabhu knew something had to be done, and set to work making a system that could drastically reduce the incidences of cyber bullying.
With technology and social media now a part of our everyday lives, it’s not much of a surprise that the taunting and teasing of classmates and peers has taken on a new form. Now, not only is it just mean words and occasional fistfights in the school yard, it is hateful and embarrassing words, photos, and videos permanently and publicly displayed for anyone to see. The anonymity that the internet often provides only exacerbates the situation.
When Trisha heard the news of the young girl who took her own life because of the relentless online teasing she endured, the young teen was heartbroken, and decided then to do what she could to prevent something like that from happening again.
It was after learning of a particular fact about adolescent brains that she was able to come up with her brilliant idea. The fact is, as our brains develop, they develop from from back to front, the front part of the brain not being fully developed until around age 25. That front part of our brains is what helps us with decision-making. This is why kids are more likely to act on impulses without considering the consequences. When it’s so easy, second nature even for the youth of today, to type up a text message or comment and hit ‘send’, they may not always think about the effect of their words or their actions.
“What if I gave them a chance to think about what they were doing?” Trisha wondered, as she set out on her mission and created the product Rethink, which creates an alert before a potentially offensive message is posted, asking the poster if they really want to write something that could hurt someone else, giving them the chance to stop and think about what they are doing.
In her trial studies, Trisha found that over 93% of the time, when adolescents received that message, they changed their willingness to post the offensive material.
While still in development, Rethink has already gotten Trisha many awards and praise, and she hopes to soon have it available as a Chrome browser extension and mobile add-on, to help stop cyber bullying worldwide.
Trisha’s idea has even reached across to Japan, where bullying is a particularly big problem, cyber-bullying included (something which is known as ネットいじめ netto ijime, netto being the shortened word for internet, and ijime meaning bully or bullying).