Computers, smartphones, tablets, and social media — they can all be great. But what happens when someone uses their phone to send mean text messages or post an embarrassing picture of someone else? These are examples of cyberbullying, and it's never OK.
In 2013, Trisha Prabhu heard about an 11-year-old girl who committed suicide because she was being cyberbullied. Heartbroken, Trisha decided to use her computer skills to do something positive that could help stop cyberbullying. At 13, Trisha created ReThink. It's a free app that recognizes when users type messages that could be hurtful. When the app detects a hurtful message, it asks the user to reconsider sending the message. Pretty amazing, right? Read how Trisha is working to prevent cyberbullying before it starts and how you can make better decisions when you're online.
How old are you?
I am 15 years old.
In your own words, can you define cyberbullying?
It's when someone repeatedly sends mean, sensitive, hurtful, embarrassing, or shaming remarks, pictures, or video. The person might send them repeatedly via social media, text messages, and emails to the person being bullied.
Tell us about the ReThink app. Who or what inspired you to invent it?
In the fall of 2013, I came home one day and read a news story about an 11-year-old girl who committed suicide due to repeated cyberbullying. I was shocked, heartbroken, and angry. How could a girl younger than me be pushed to take her own life? I started thinking about what I could do to stop this from ever happening again. I invented an app, ReThink, to stop hurtful messages before they are sent. ReThink is the first solution to stop cyberbullying BEFORE the damage is done. The app is available on both Android and Apple devices!
How can ReThink help teens make better decisions on social media?
The ReThink app detects hurtful messages before they are posted on the internet. Messages could be something like, "Go kill yourself," or, "You are ugly." When the app finds that a hurtful message is about to be sent, it prompts the sender with a ReThink alert. The ReThink alert is a note that says, "Hold on — that message you are about to send may be hurtful to others. Are you sure you want to post it?" My research found that when study participants got this message, over 93% of them changed their minds and decided not to post a hurtful message. ReThink helps change behaviors. It's a solution that helps stop negativity and encourages positive messages online.
What was it like developing your own app?
It was fun and exciting! But, it was challenging, too! I would say the biggest challenge developing the ReThink app was having to learn new programming tools to create it. While I enjoyed learning about and applying new technologies, it has been a balancing act. I'm having to manage my time between ReThink and the demands of high school. Thanks to the great support of school administrators and teachers and by learning to manage my time, I've been able to handle both reasonably well.
Do you have advice for other girls interested in computer programming or app development?
Coding is so much fun! It's not just for boys. When I started at 10 years old, I wasn't sure if I would like it. I taught myself to code using books and free online resources. Also, I was lucky to get advice from my parents (who work in information technology) and other teachers and mentors. Once I got started, I learned that coding allows you to actually create technology, not just use technology. That made it so much more fun! With the power of coding, you can solve problems that you are passionate about and make a difference in the world.
If you have questions or if you are feeling stuck during coding, don't feel discouraged. Reach out to your teachers and mentors and ask for help. There are so many resources online where you can go to talk with other young coders. You can get help with coding problems you may face and get solutions for computer programming or app development issues.
What advice would you give to girls who experience cyberbullying?
Be strong! You are beautiful. You are special. A bully's words don't determine or change who you are. Don't hesitate to ask for help. Talk to your parents, friends, teachers, or other people you trust. Be an upstander — someone who stands up for others — and stop people who bully from sending hurtful messages. If you know someone who bullies, tell them about ReThink.
What are some things girls can do to make better decisions on social media?
Be careful not to share your personal information, pictures, or videos on social media with strangers. Do not contact or respond to anyone that you do not recognize or know. Many people who are bullied suffer in silence and are too afraid to take any action. I encourage you to be brave and strong. Don't let anyone ruin your day.
DesignGood.com named you one of "9 Inspiring Teen Girls" in 2015. How does that feel?
I have received several awards since inventing ReThink. I am grateful, honored, and humbled by these wonderful awards and titles. They will mean even more if I am able to get ReThink in the hands of millions of adolescents around the world at no cost to them. I am working hard to make ReThink available in other languages so kids around the world can use it. I dream of a day when we have conquered cyberbullying forever!
What's your favorite social media platform and why?
I think all the popular social media sites have one thing in common: They promote friendships and connections, and they allow users to learn and interact with one another in a positive way. I love them all!
Is there anything else you'd like to share?
You do not have to wear a white lab coat or have Albert Einstein's hair to make a difference in the world. If you care enough about a problem and if you want to see that the problem is solved, try to work on it passionately. You will start seeing change. People might discourage you, but always remember you get to write your own story.
Content last reviewed June 8, 2016
Page last updated June 8, 2016