Anyone who has read the comments section on an online article knows that grown ass men and women can say some really, really nasty stuff when they’re hiding behind a keyboard and computer screen. If adults exhibit that kind of shitty behavior, it only makes sense that teenagers are even worse.
Cyberbullying – it’s a real thing and, honestly, it’s not that new. I remember saying some truly horrible things to my frenemies of AOL Instant Messenger back in the early aughts and, from everything I’ve read about being a teenager today, it sounds like it has only gotten worse. There have been multiple suicides directly linked to online bullying and the evilness of teenagers online can seem unstoppable.
But not if one 13 year old girl from Illinois has anything to say about it.
The Verge reported on Trisha Prabhu, an 8th grader at Scullen Middle School in Naperville, Illinois. Clearly a genius, this badass chick’s first social cause was environmentalism when, at age 6, she was given a book about global warming and started her plans for a car that runs on wind and water.
“I’ve yet to realize that dream, but it’ll happen – I’m determined,” Trisha says in her Google Science Fair 2014 write up.
In the meantime, Trisha has developed anti-cyberbullying software that takes on the lofty goal of preventing cyberbullying. Using her extensive technological knowledge that I’m not even going to pretend to understand, Trisha created two systems that she named “Baseline” and “Rethink.” The “Baseline” system simply asked the teenagers if they’d be willing to send out a series of harmful messages, while “Rethink” let them review and rethink before sending out the hurtful statements, prompting them with a pop up that says “This message may be hurtful to others. Would you like to pause, review and rethink before posting?”
Trisha tested her systems on 300 anonymous teenagers and had half of them try out the “Baseline” system while the other half tried out the “Rethink” system. Between both groups, 1,500 trials were conducted by the end of the experiment and Trisha found that the teens in the “Baseline” group were willing to post hurtful messages 71% of the time, while only a little more than 6.5% of the “Rethink” group did the same.
While most teenagers would probably be content with the A+ on a great report and recognition from the Google Science Fair, Trisha has taken her findings and is in the process of developing a scalable prototype that can be integrated into social media platforms in order to reduce cyberbullying. Considering the impressive work this young woman has already produced, I don’t doubt that what she comes up with will be potentially world changing.