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20-year-old combating cyberbullying through technology, 1 message at a time

Posted at 11:06 AM, Dec 08, 2020

CHICAGO — Last week, Forbes named a first-generation Indian immigrant and Harvard student, Trisha Prabhu, as its youngest honoree on its 30 under 30 social impact list.

Her impact comes in the form stopping cyberbulling dead in its tracks. The 20-year-old is on a quest to build a better world by combating hate through technology.

“It's something that's impacting millions of young people globally and the consequences can quite literally be deadly,” said Prabhu.

About 20% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying nationwide. Around 15% of them are bullied online or by text.

A former victim of cyberbullying, Prabhu says reading about a 12-year-old in Florida who died by suicide after being cyberbullied forced her to act.

“It just absolutely devastated me, and I knew as a young person who had grown up in a world with technology and phones, that I was uniquely positioned to do something about this, that I could make a change.”

At just 13 years old, she created ReThink, a patented technology that can detect hurtful or offensive messages by a user and force them to pause and think.

“What if we're able to quite literally intervene in the decision-making process? And before someone hits send go ‘whoa hold on. What you're about to say could be offensive. Are you sure you want to post that?’”

The custom-built ReThink keyboard replaces the mobile device’s default keyboard and can spot and flag aggressive messages. She tested it as part of a science project with 1,500 young people.

“Basically, seeing how young people behaved online, on a social media like environment, when they had a chance to rethink saying something offensive, 93% of the time, young people change their mind.”

The prodigy has given multiple TEDx talks about cyber bullying over the years and has spoken at schools around the country and internationally.

ReThink has now been used by more than 5.5 million young people and has partnered with groups like scholastic and the U.S. State Department.

Last month, the Elevate Prize Foundation awarded Prabhu $300,000 in funding to help support her mission.

“It really is just a matter of being conscious being conscious of what we're saying,” she said. “Just a little bit of consciousness can take us all a very long way.”