“The cruelest thing about bullying is that it attacks our self-confidence at the very time when we most need the ability to accept ourselves and to confront new challenges in life.”
This is what Pope Francis said in a speech last year when he addressed the youth during his visit to Japan. He was responding to the story of Leonardo, a young Filipino migrant in Japan who was bullied in school for being different.
After Leonardo’s speech, the Holy Father thanked him for sharing his experiences because back in the day, people didn’t speak up nor stand up for themselves. “Thank you, Leonardo, for sharing the experience of bullying and discrimination. More and more young people are finding the courage to speak up about experiences like yours,” the Pope said. (Read: CCP Launches Free Ebook to Help Children Cope With the Pandemic)
To speak up and stand up against bullying is exactly what 15-year-old Gitanjali Rao does. At such a young age, the Time Kid of the Year 2020 has developed a mobile app and Google Chrome extension that make use of artificial intelligence (AI) technology to detect cyberbullying in its early stages.
Kindly Mobile App, Chrome extension
Called “Kindly,” the mobile app and Chrome extension helps internet users think twice before hitting send. It detects words and phrases that might come off as bullying and gives the user the option to change it or send it as is.
“As a teenager, I know teenagers tend to lash out sometimes. Instead, it gives you the chance to rethink what you’re saying so that you know what to do next time around,” Rao explained in an interview with Angelina Jolie. (Read: 3 Ways to Avoid ‘Cancel Culture’ in Social Media)
The young inventor, who was chosen among the 5,000 nominees for the inaugural title of Time Person of the Year, said that she put out the app so that kids like her wouldn’t feel micromanaged by their parents but still have the means to try and correct their wrong behavior. (Read: 3 Ways To Shut Down Cyber Bullies)
“A lot of the teenagers were telling me that, you know, it doesn’t seem like I’m being micromanaged; it seems like I’m being given an opportunity to learn from my mistakes,” Rao said.
Creating an app that advocates for anti-bullying is just the tip of the iceberg for this 15-year-old inventor. In fact, in the past, Rao had already created one that tackles opioid addiction, wherein she uses a device to detect addiction in its early onset.
And right now, she is working on a device that could detect bio-contaminants— like parasites— in water. Rao hopes that when she finally finishes this project, it can be made accessible and affordable to those who are living in third-world countries so they “can identify what’s in their water.”
Time Kid of the Year
Gitanjali Rao, as young as she is, is already making a name for herself in the field of science— a feat that is remarkable and awe-inspiring. Despite it all, she remains humble and goal-driven. “If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said.
The 15-year-old added that her goal used to just be to invent and create devices that can provide solutions to global issues, but because there has become somewhat of a stereotype in pop culture portrayals of scientists, that goal changed. (Read: Three Instances That Prove Science and Faith Work Hand In Hand)
“It’s weird to me that it was almost like people had assigned roles, regarding like their gender, their age, the color of their skin. My goal has really shifted not only from creating my own devices to solve the world’s problems, but inspiring others to do the same as well,” Rao stated.
You may read the full interview here.