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​13 yr-old comes up with scheme to tackle cyber-bullying

Published time: August 08, 2014 16:24
Reuters/Jorge Silva

Reuters/Jorge Silva

In an effort to prevent cyber bulling, a 13 year-old girl has created a project that makes teens think twice about what they are posting, and rethink whether they actually want to send a potentially abusive message.

Trisha Prabhu’s ‘Rethink’ project has already earned her a spot in Google’s 15 Global Science Fair finalists. The theory behind her creation is that a child’s brain tends to be less developed than an adult’s and therefore teens are more impulsive in what they write.

“I hypothesized that if adolescents (ages 12-18) were provided an alert mechanism that suggested them to rethink their decision if they expressed willingness to post a mean/hurtful message on social media, the number of mean/hurtful messages that adolescents will be willing to post would be [less] than adolescents that are not provided with such an alert mechanism,” the Illinois native said on her project site.

The figures certainly show that her study is working, as she was able to prove that 93.4 percent of teens decided not to post a hurtful comment after they were given the option of reviewing the contents of what they had written. This was despite an initial willingness of 71.07 percent of adolescents to send something negative, her project results showed.

Prabhu came up with the idea this year - she is “passionate to prevent cyber-bullying, knowing (from research) that it is negatively affecting many young adolescents.”

“Research shows that, over 50 percent of adolescents and teens have been bullied online and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly. Research also shows that adolescents that post mean/hurtful messages may not understand the potential consequences of their actions because the pre-frontal cortex, the area of brain that controls reasoning and decision-making isn’t developed until age 25,” she wrote in the project’s summary.

However, the 13 year-old is not content to rest on her laurels and is already planning her next project. She is looking to see how the ‘Rethink’ system could work with various social media and apps to prevent cyber-bullying at source.

“My design includes a sophisticated context-sensitive filtering system that catches truly "mean/hurtful" messages and works with social media sites on web/mobile platforms. I am looking forward to a future where we have conquered cyber-bullying!”

Before she undertakes her next endeavor, Trisha will compete at the Google Global Science Fair, which takes place in September and if she wins, she will get a 10-day trip to the Galapagos Islands, a visit to the Virgin Galactic Spaceport, and $50,000 in scholarship funding.