Advocate leading mental illness support program in Pictou County
Sherry Blinkhorn would like to see a time when talking about mental illness becomes just like talking about the weather.
SYDNEY — A new computer program from a Cape Breton teen is designed to hit cyberbullies where they work and limit the spread of hateful messages across the internet.
Your Privacy is the creation of 14-year-old Callum Pickles of Coxheath that scans social media for threatening or insulting words to program users and helps them delete them.
“Let’s say you have the word ‘loser.’ The program can scan Facebook and Twitter for that word,” said the Grade 9 student at MacLennan Junior High.
“If it does find something that is a threat to the end user, it takes a screen shot of it and then when the scan is done the person can go into the scan and see if the status was a threat.”
If the users clicks ‘yes it is a threat’ then the program deletes the status and sends an alert to Facebook administrators, he said. If they click ‘no, it is not a threat’ the program will delete the scanned image and move on to the next possible threat.
Although bullying is not a problem he sees at his school, Pickles knows it exists and cited a much publicized Canadian example with a tragic result as inspiration for the project.
“The Amanda Todd case, that’s one of the reason that really got me up to do this. There’s been so many suicides from cyberbullying. Nobody really has the guts to face them in person. When they are in a pack with a bunch of friends they might pick on them, but if they are face-to-face they won’t. Online, they just want to be hidden and will act so tough when they are behind a computer.”
Although cyberbullying is mostly sent through social media like Facebook, his program also targets websites.
“If they made a mean website about someone you can post a link into the program and after Twitter and Facebook are done loading it goes into another tab to that website and scans all the pages for a certain word. Then it finds the host of the website and sends the picture right to them so they can delete the website.”
Despite bullying being a growing online problem, he’s not aware of any anti-bullying program like the one he is creating with some help from friends at his school and others in Ontario.
He also credited Innovacorp for lining up some advisors now working in the IT field and hopes they can eventually help him find a buyer or investors to help get the program out to the people who need it.
“I don’t want it to be bought yet. I just want to get it out to do a beta test to gauge feedback.”
Pickles is also working on a mobile App that will filter text messages the same way his full program filters social media.
“If there is any mean text coming into my phone, for example, it will delete the text before it reaches my phone.”