With kids like these, the future is bright. Thirteen-year-old Trisha Prabhu is one of 15 global finalists in the Google Science Fair 2014, and her project is meant to end cyberbullying. Prabhu looked into how many kids between 12 and 18 are bullied online (more than 50 percent) and found research that shows kids who post hurtful messages online may not fully understand the consequences of their actions, due to brain development. Prabhu surmised that if kids had to read the messages and comments they write before they are sent out, they would be less willing to make hurtful comments.
Trisha Prabhu, a 13-year-old from Chicago, won a spot as one of Google’s 15 Global Science Fair finalists for her project about stopping cyberbullying by making teens and tweens think before posting hurtful comments. The science behind Prabhu’s idea is simple: Teens are impulsive and, because of their brain structure, more likely to post hurtful messages without pausing to think about the consequences. The prefrontal cortex — the part of the brain responsible for self-control that helps people think before acting — isn’t fully developed until age 25. Her theory is that if teens are forced to take a moment of reflection before posting a mean comment, they won’t do it. She created a system to test her hypothesis called Rethink, which prompted students who said they would post a mean comment to think about how it might affect its target before posting it. Turns out, in 93.43% of her 533 trials, the student decided not to post the comment. Now that she has successfully tested her hypothesis, Prabhu wants to create a real product that could work with social media sites and apps that would filter messages that were potentially mean or hurtful, and alert senders to take an extra second to think before posting.