Let’s face it: We’re living in a world that encourages impulsivity. And it’s not just email—a place where I do my best to abide by the rule, “thou shalt read twice before clicking send”— it’s all forms of social media (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, even Snapchat) that encourage us to live life unfiltered and spew our real time thoughts.
But that’s the problem. As adults, we’ve been trained (most of us, at least) to self-censor and think twice about the stuff we share online. Kids, on the other hand, could use some help in this department. And unless we—ahem, their parents—have the free time to be their constant digital chaperone, acting as social media hall monitor 24/7 is not happening.
Cue the award-winning (and, frankly, eye-opening) iOS and android app designed to teach your kids to pump the breaks before they over-share—or, worse, participate in cyber-bullying—online. It’s called ReThink, and using a special keyboard, it gives your child a second chance to pause, review and re-think messages in every app they use before clicking send.
The Back Story
OK, here’s the part that blew my mind: ReThink was actually developed by a teenager. Yep, 17-year-old Trisha Prabhu was looking for a way to put an end to cyber-bullying after hearing about an 11-year-old who committed suicide after being harassed online.
She explains the well-known fact that, biologically, adolescents tend to make rash decisions, especially given that the pre-frontal cortex (aka the decision-making part of the brain) doesn’t fully develop until age 25. Combine that impulsivity with the eerie message driven home in the film The Social Network: “The Internet’s not written in pencil, it’s written in ink.” Basically, it’s the idea that kids often don’t realize the damage of the words they plunked out on a keyboard until it’s too late.
According to Prabhu’s scientific research, when adolescents are given a chance to pause and review (a spell check for hurtful messages, if you will), they change their minds about posting 93 percent of the time. Pretty staggering, right?
How ReThink Works
Install the free app on your kid’s smartphone, then go into the settings to activate the ReThink keyboard. (Instructions will appear that explain exactly how to do this, but it’s easy, I promise.) The next time your child goes to type a text message, a Facebook post, or even a Tweet with words that could be construed as offensive (“I hate you,” for example), they’ll receive a pop-up alert from ReThink asking them if they’re sure they want to click post.
And here’s the crazy part. The app knows the difference between “I hate you” and “I hate the weather,” thanks to coding on Prabhu’s end, which means your teen won’t get instantly irritated by too much app interference in their daily messaging with friends.
My Final Word
Cyber-bullying is a massive issue right now. I love that this app goes straight to the source—kids that may be perpetuating inappropriate conversations and empowers them to rethink their own words. Sure, it might not work 100 percent of the time, but it definitely helps them learn to think before they type and share. Like I said before, we could all use a reminder to not be so reactive online!
What do you think? Would you consider downloading this app for your kids?