Chicago teen Trisha aims to tackle cyber-bullying with Rethink, enters Google Science Fair final

Chicago teen Trisha aims to tackle cyber-bullying with Rethink, enters Google Science Fair final
Most India parents don’t think their children are bullied online. Representational Image. Reuters

By tech2 News Staff / 08 Aug 2014 , 15:10

A Chicago school girl is getting international attention for her project which aims to stop bullying online.


After entering the Google Science Fair competition, Trisha Prabhu has now made it to the finals of the competition, with her project Rethink. Rethink involves a simple consideration for teenagers who are posting online. It will urge teenagers to reconsider sending hurtful messages or comments by picking up on words such as stupid, loser, ugly etc, which are liberally used in cyber-bullying.


“This year, I became passionate to prevent cyber-bullying knowing(from research) that it is negatively affecting many young adolescents. Using my science and technology skills, I am determined to find an effective long-term solution that would help prevent cyberbullying,” the 8th grader from Scullen Middle School in Naperville, Illinois says on her project page.


Rethink works by showing teens that their comment is hurtful. If someone decides to post something offensive on social media, ‘Rethink’ would alert them and tell them this could be hurtful to somebody and ask them to reconsider. In over 500 trials, she found that 93 percent of adolescents changed their minds and decided not to post, prompting her to make Rethink a reality. She wants to work with social media websites and apps to filter out hurtful messages, and make sure the system can be used for future platforms as well.


Cyber bullying is estimated to be behind a lot of teenage depression and in some extreme cases has resulted in suicide and death as well. India is notorious for rampant cyber-bullying, but there are few checks for social media usage in the country. Another problem is the lackadaisical attitude towards cyber bullying.


“My ‘Rethink’ technology will pick up on that (hurtful) word and it’ll say it’s not the right context and that’s not a right message. We need to practice digital citizenship that shouldn’t be on Facebook and Twitter. Are you sure you want to post it? And we saw that kids changed their mind and it was amazing,” she was quoted as saying on Fox Chicago.


Google Science Fair final results will be announced in late September, where Trisha will be competing with 18 other finalists for a prize that involves a trip to the Galapagos Island, a visit to the Virgin Galactic Spaceport and $50,000 education scholarship. If she wins, Trisha says she wants to study neurosciences and spend her life “unraveling the secrets of the brain.”