ReThink founder and CEO Trisha Prabhu
In 2013, Trisha Prabhu was a 13-year-old college student when 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick, who had been cyberbullyed and received nasty news, climbed and jumped onto the abandoned cement factory silo and tragically killed herself.
For Prabhu it was personal. Not only were the two of about the same age, but Prabhu had been a victim of mean messages herself, and as a first-generation immigrant whose parents were from India, she often felt alienated.
When Prabhu read the news and realized that the cause of Sedwick’s suicide was cyberbullying, she remembered that something was wrong with the internet and it felt like a lot of adults working on these topics really couldn’t get to the heart of the matter .
“They encouraged young people to report on cyberbullying and take all of these reactive approaches,” says Prabhu. “As a Generation Z young person who had spent a lot of time on the phone and knew what it was like to be harassed, I knew those approaches wouldn’t work – they were fundamentally flawed.”
So Prabhu got the idea to turn the script around. Instead of reactively harassing the victim, she tried to find a solution to nurture the next generation of responsible digital citizens and prevent insults from even occurring.
As part of her project for the science fair in the 8th grade, she carried out a scientific study with 1500 people.
“I might not even realize those people who were saying something offensive that what they were saying was offensive or thought it was going to impress people online and give them a chance to stop and think about what they wanted to say . ” Says Prabhu.
Prabhu found that 93% of the time, young people refrained from promoting the insult.
After the “Eureka” moment, Prabhu gathered a team of people she knew – teachers, young entrepreneurs, friends and family – and used some of their coding skills and their experiences to create ReThink.
Today ReThink is a digital platform with patented technology that has been downloaded over 500,000 times from the App Store and Google Play and is available in six languages.
ReThink works like this, if you download the app on your phone, replace the standard mobile device keyboard with a custom keyboard, and then work for all apps on the phone: email, text, social media. It detects sensitive content before it is sent and prompts the user to verify that they want to continue.
Prabhu, the founder and CEO of ReThink and currently a junior at Harvard, was recently added to the 30-30 social impact list.
Cyberbullying as a topic has spread the word in the last few years when First Lady Melania Trump selected this topic to create an initiative (through her Be Best campaign). Given her husband’s tweeting habits, where he regularly insulted people who occasionally refer to women as “fat, ugly, or pathetic,” Prabhu says the first lady’s initiative was “complicated.”
“I think it’s great that a public figure has chosen to put cyberbullying at the center of a campaign,” says Prabhu. “Of course, it was just difficult because some of the language her husband models on social media is difficult to reconcile with these efforts.”
According to Prabhu, regardless of political affiliation, people can agree that some of the things the president has said are extremely derogatory.
“It’s the kind of behavior I try to teach young people every day not to get involved,” she says.
While Prabhu juggles taking classes at Harvard, working on ReThink, learning Spanish, and spending time with her partner, she’s also been thinking about the future of her platform and how it could potentially grow as a company one day.
Prabhu adds that she wants to keep the basic version of the app free, but with monetization in mind, but she is considering adding features for parents who want more control over what their kids communicate.
“Maybe one day we can even work with a phone company to make this technology more available to everyone,” says Prabhu.