Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me….most of us have heard this little rhyme more than once in our childhood. But it is false, especially in today’s cyber-centric world where individuals can never find refuge from the hurtful things people say face-to-face, post on live feeds and share in chat groups.
In 2013, when Trisha was just thirteen years old, she read the shocking story of Rebecca Sedwick’s suicide. Rebecca, a twelve year old girl from Florida, took her own life after she had experienced cyberbullying for over a year and a half. Trisha, also a victim of cyberbullying, was shocked, heartbroken and outraged. After conducting some research, Trisha discovered that 52% of teens in the US have been/or are being cyberbullied. Of those, 38% report having suicidal thoughts and tendencies which stem from depression, low self-esteem and anxiety. She was so deeply moved by Rebecca’s story that she threw herself into fighting cyberbullying head on.
Trisha admits that friends have told her social media sites already have measures in place to stop such occurrences. However, Trisha realized this “stop-block-report” method was ineffective for teens as many are often unwilling to tell anyone they are being bullied at all and it does nothing to change the actions of the bully.
Trisha cites her inspiration for the software as putting into action the notion of think before you speak; in this case think before you type. Her technology, ReThink ™ is designed to detect and stop online hate at the source before bullying occurs. It works by detecting offensive content and offers an in-the-moment nudge to the user which offers them a chance to reflect on what they wrote before they can post the material. According to Trisha’s website (trishaprabhu.com) 93% of adolescents change their mind and decide not to post the hurtful comments.
By 19 years old, not only was Trisha an inventor, creating new software to address cyberbullying, she also became the founder and CEO of her own company. In 2016, at just 16 years old, Trisha was invited by President Barack Obama and the U.S. State Department to attend the Global Entrepreneurship Summit so that she could showcase her work and tell her story. Her work was also featured on ABC’s hit tv show, Shark Tank. By 2019, ReThink ™ was the winner of Harvard University’s President’s Global Innovation Challenge & Harvard College’s i3 entrepreneurial Challenge. Trisha became Harvard’s first ever freshman to win the Harvard University’s President Innovation Grand Prize. She was also named a 2014 Google Science Fair Finalist and received the 2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) INSPIRE Aristotle Award. In addition, she received the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois High School Innovator Award. Trisha was also selected as a 2015 Global Teen Leader by the We Are Family Foundation among many other accolades.
Trisha’s technology is currently available for free as a mobile app on the Google Play store and the App store. She is currently rolling out ReThink ™ in various languages to stop hate speech around the world. While this technology is geared towards getting pre-teens and teens to reflect on their speech, I would also suggest that the technology be just as useful for adults as well. I very much advocate for Trisha’s cause and ask everyone to remember that what is said and posted online has very real consequences. Words can and do hurt.