I originally intended for these daily musings to be short, but…sometimes the topic warrants more.
Over the weekend I saw yet another saddening headline about a youth suicide. I will spare the details, but like so many others in recent times there was cyber-bullying involved.
Cyber or not, bullying of any kind has always bothered me. That’s not to say that I have never been guilty of bullying another person. I like to think that it wasn’t a big part of who I was during my youth, since I was so busy trying to get better at soccer, school, and video games. If anyone from my grade school days would like to comment otherwise, I invite you to leave a comment or get in contact with me.
I have been on the other side as well. Luckily, that was in the early to mid-90’s, so the internet was painfully slow and bullying was limited to analog. Since the bully was older and in a different class, it was also limited to recess. As I reflect on it, I was even luckier in that the bully was more of a 1-on-1 kind of bully rather than one who gets others to participate. I don’t know a whole lot about cyber-bullying, but I know a fair amount about social media and this is where I imagine cyber bullying can be dangerous.
Side-question: I’m curious if the cyber-bullying is an extension of in-person efforts or limited to the internet.
Once a post is out there, it must be very easy for others to jump in. Even more concerning, with the ubiquity of technology and social networking it’s probably very hard for the victim to ignore. It was this thought and my recent entrepreneurial awakening that made me wonder if there are any efforts to thwart cyber-bullying, particularly on a preventive scale.
This led to something amazing.
Given my affinity for the show @midnight on comedy central, I started my google search with the simple query, “anti-troll.”
Side-note: Before this post I thought trolls and bullies are one and same. However, I think there is a slight difference, not that it really matters since both behaviors are off-putting. Trolling is when one “makes a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” Bullying on the other hand I think is more targeted and can stretch over an extended period of time.
Back to the matter at hand…one of the first results you will see is that a 13 year old, Trisha Prabhu, has developed an effective and preventive software for cyber-bullying. Her thought process, the scope of her research and testing, and execution is impressive. Prabhu determined that current solutions don’t address the issue until the damage has already been done, a particularly keen observation.
Here’s a link to her project, Rethink. It should come as no surprise that she’s interested in neuroscience and the brain.
To sum up, Prabhu developed a “Rethink” system that triggers an alert mechanism that gives the poster a second chance by offering an opportunity to re-think their words and the potential effects. Her research sourced from ikeepsafe.org explains that this process hasn't been fully developed in adolescent brains.
Her abilities don’t stop there. She recently gave a TEDxTeen talk this past October.
Well done Prabhu.
Hopefully, we see her efforts soon. Look out for her Chrome plug-in extension, app, and whatever else she comes up with.