Language recognition app Reword helps young people think before they post

Mel Buttigieg

A spell check for online bullying will help young people identify potentially hurtful things they are about to say online and prompt them to reword posts before they go live, according to its creators.

Anti-bullying app Reword has been developed to help young people self-moderate their online language. Source: Reword

The Chrome extension Reword aims to prevent online abusive behavior by identifying insulting statements in real time, and guiding young people to think before they post.

The collaborative project was developed by Melbourne communications agency Leo Burnett in partnership with national youth mental health foundation Headspace.

The online communication tool has been designed to combat the widespread problem of Cyberbullying, which affects about 450,000 Aussie youths each year, according to the National Children’s and Youth Law Centre Australia.

Similar to a spell check, a red line intuitively strikes through insulting or offensive statements, interrupting impulsive behaviour and prompting the user to reconsider their words before posting.

The online communication tool identifies hurtful phrases and words, striking a red line through them to encourage the user to reword their post before going live. Source: Reword

“The tool aims to encourage a change in the way people communicate online, and gives people a chance to reword what they say,” said Headspace CEO Chris Tanti.

Reword picks up abusive words, phrases and sentences. The red line prompts users to “make a better choice,” developers say.

“Bullying has always existed, but technology has made it insidious – and near inescapable,” Mr Tanti said.

“Online bullies can target victims 24/7, they can do it anonymously and without anyone else nearby to call out the behaviour.

“While online bullying is usually addressed through education or by reporting after the event, Reword catches the behaviour in real time, before it is out there.

“Once an insult has been read, the damage is done,” he said.

Headspace CEO Chris Tanti said Reword allows young people to think about the language they’re using before posting to social media. Source: Twitter/ChrisTantiCEO

As the program evolves, users can contribute insults to help build the library of recognised terms.

Initial trials have been well received, with testing revealing 79 per cent of young people who used Reword were willing to change what they had written when they saw the red line, Mr Tanti said.

A study found 78 per cent of Australians bullied online were aged 10-15 years old, according to Headspace.

“It’s an early intervention tool, it helps young people - in the gentlest way - correct what they’re saying and allows them to think about the language they’re using,” Mr Tanti said.

If you are concerned about the mental health of yourself or a loved one, seek support and information by calling Lifeline 13 11 14, Mensline 1300 789 978, or Kids Helpline 1800 551 800