Words Wound

I really do hope that I'm someone who steps up to lend a hand when I witness cyberbullying, no matter who it is, instead of just staying silent. I know it's the right thing. And I know it's up to me.

Phelan, 16, New Jersey

Rethink Cyberbullying

Fourteen-year-old Neuqua Valley High School Freshman Trisha Prabhu was inspired by the tragic suicide of Rebecca Sedwick to do something about cyberbullying. "After reading about how cyberbullying had so terribly affected Rebecca, I decided that enough was enough." She thoroughly researched the problem of suicide and upon learning the scope and the potential consequences, she set out to develop a solution.

"I truly couldn't believe that adolescents could be so awful and cruel on social media. What was the root cause of this problem? What was the science behind this awful behavior? Why did kids cyberbully? Research showed that adolescents' brain is likened to a car with no brakes. There is an area of the brain called the pre-frontal cortex that controls decision making. It isn't fully developed until the early to mid-twenties, which is why we often see adolescents making quirky, rash behavior. Research has already linked this behavior to early drug and substance abuse, decisions that students can later regret, but no one had ever drawn a correlation between this research and social media abuse. But what if that correlation actually existed? I wondered – what if adolescents were given a chance to reconsider their decision to post an offensive message on social media – would they change their minds and decide not to post that message?"

Trisha tested her theory using a software system she developed which warned teens to stop and think about what they were posting before going through with it and results were extremely promising. "The Rethink Software System would [tell them] 'Hold on – that message that you are about to send, that may be hurtful to others. Are you sure you want to post it?' After a total of 1500 well-controlled and fair trials, I was faced with some stunning results. An incredible 93% of the time, when adolescents were posed with a Rethink alert, they changed their mind, and decided not to post the offensive message!".

But Trisha isn't stopping there. "I am working tirelessly on making this a reality so that Rethink works with any social media site (old, new and ones to come) on both web and mobile platforms. I am hoping to get Rethink up and running in the next few months. My high school is already working on adopting Rethink as their new anti-cyberbullying slogan. It's amazing to know I've been able to give back to my community."