In the fall of 2013, Trisha Prabhu came home one day to read a news story about an 11-year old girl that had committed suicide due to repeated cyberbullying.
She was shocked, heartbroken and angry.
Then she started thinking: “How could a girl younger than me be pushed to take her own life?”, and about what she could do to stop this from ever happening again.
Here begins the encouraging story of Trisha Prabhu, a 20-year-old innovator, social entrepreneur, global advocate and inventor of this app, a patented technology and an effective way to detect and stop online hate.
Prabhu sat down with Youth Time to discuss the journey and impact of ReThink as an award-winning, non-intrusive, innovative technology in detecting and stopping cyberbullying before the damage is done.
Online Hate Is Stopped, Lives Are Saved
ReThink is a technology that detects online hate and stops it before anyone gets hurt. Prabhu explains for our readers how this works.
Here is a quick overview of how ReThink functions:
- User tries to post offensive content
- Patented ReThink technology detects offensive content
- ReThink provides in-the-moment nudge to rethink before posting
- User reflects, and decides not to post the offensive content
- Online hate is stopped. Lives are saved!
The ‘Eureka’ Moment of Prabhu
Prabhu, whose efforts were recognised by the United States (US) President Barack Obama in 2016, has always been fascinated by the inner workings of the brain.
By highlighting this, she further talks about how her activism started during such an early age.
“When I read that news story about cyberbullying suicide, I wondered what caused adolescents to actually post mean and hurtful messages?
“For that year’s school science fair, I performed a preliminary science project to analyse whether age affects willingness to post hurtful messages.”
Results from that project did not surprise her. Adolescents were 50% more willing to post hurtful messages than adults.
“Passionate to stop hurtful messages from getting out, I performed an extensive study of the adolescent brain and how it develops over the years.
“Something caught my attention: 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 her fellow adolescents from cyberbullying others, she carried out this project to find a solution to stop these hurtful messages from being posted.
Turning Tragedy Into ReThink
Since then Trisha Prabhu has worked very hard to design and develop the ReThink technology for both mobile and browser platforms.
“To see that ReThink is now available on both the iOS and Android platform for every student around the world at no cost to them is an achievement that I am proud of.
“Since its launch on the Google Play Store and the iOS App Store, I have teamed up with various organisations to introduce ReThink to elementary, middle and high school students.”
She further recalls that the US State Department introduced ReThink in 134 countries via the Share America programme.
“The Attorney-General of Michigan, Bill Schuette, rolled out ReThink to over 1.1 million school students in the State of Michigan as a part of their OKAY2SAY educational programme.
“Scholastic has introduced ReThink anti-cyberbullying curriculum to over 91,000 schools around the country as a part of their Junior Scholastic classroom magazines and Scholastic Scope magazines.”
In addition, Boosterthon has introduced ReThink materials to over 1.3 million elementary students in 2000 elementary schools around the country as a part of their Real-Action Heroes project.
Over 1,500 schools have adopted ReThink as a mantra to address cyberbullying.
“ReThink is both technology and a movement. I have used my voice for advocacy and have spoken in over 50 global platforms and in three different languages around the world to students, parents, school teachers around the world. As a TED speaker, my goal is to get every student to pause, review and rethink before posting anything hurtful, before the damage is done.”
Students “Becoming Better Digital Citizens”
She further expands on how the ReThink Summit School Program (RSSP) impacts young people and their knowledge on hate speech and cyberbullying.
RSSP is a program designed as a year-long initiative for schools/academic institutions to take substantive action against online hate, cyberbullying, and online abuse in their communities.
“Via ReThink’s anti-harassment technology, educational materials, unique student-led educational programs, students will be equipped to act responsibility online, and become better digital citizens.
“Unlike our other programs, the RSSP combines a number of ReThink’s programmes and offers unique resources/packages to schools, and also allows schools and students to take part of an entirely new ReThink initiative: The ReThink Summit Conference!”
ReThink research shows that 93% of the time, young people chose not to post after being reminded by the software. In addition to this illustration of ReThink’s impact, we bring into discussion that its work has been featured in various important platforms.
However, how does having such a large impact make Prabhu feel?
“There were several moments of realisation how important this is for children around the world. When I received an email from a girl that had written about her friend who was in the hospital, because she was cutting herself.”
She had written as follows: Trisha, it is great to know that there is someone who cares to implement a solution to Cyberbullying.
“It moved me to tears. Another was a hand-written letter from a retired teacher. She had written in her letter that she was repeatedly cyber-bullied by her adult adopted daughter.
“She said: ‘Trisha, ReThink not only helps adolescents. It helps adults too’. Those were some key moments that have validated my solution to stop the hate and negativity online.”
Conclusively, she has a message to all the young people wanting to make a positive change in their communities.
“You do not have to wear a lab coat or have Albert Einstein’s hair to prove to the world that your idea is awesome.
“As long as you are passionate to solve a problem and make a positive difference in the world around you, no matter how small or big it is, please march ahead!”
About Trisha Prabhu
As a CEO and social entrepreneur, Trisha has received world-wide acclaim in the business world. In 2016, President Obama and the U.S. State Department invited Trisha to the Global Entrepreneurship Summit, to showcase her work and share her story with other entrepreneurs.
Not long after, ReThink was featured on ABC’s hit T.V. show, Shark Tank. In 2019, ReThink was the winner of Harvard University’s President’s Global Innovation Challenge & Harvard College’s i3 entrepreneurial Challenge.
Trisha is the first ever Harvard College freshman to win the Harvard University’s President Innovation Grand Prize.
Trisha has also been honoured with awards and recognition for her ingenuity in inventing, building, and launching ReThink.
For her research and scientific inquiry, Trisha was named a 2014 Google Science Fair Global Finalist. She was awarded the 2016 MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) INSPIRE Aristotle Award, as well as the 2016 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois High School Innovator Award.
She has the esteemed distinction of showcasing and sharing her ReThink technology at the White House Science Fair at the invitation of President Obama.
She is currently pursuing her undergraduate education at Harvard University in Cambridge, US.
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