Young people getting their first phone have a new way to help them have a happier, healthier, more positive life online, with the new BBC Own It app. Aimed at supporting children’s emotional wellbeing and resilience online, the app is a first-of-its-kind in empowering – rather than monitoring – children aged 8-13 years with their first phone.
The Own It app, featuring a specially designed keyboard, combines machine-learning with a diary so children can record how they’re feeling and why. In response, the app offers help and support, with proactive advice if their behaviour strays outside safe and sensible norms.
The keyboard works just like a normal keyboard across different apps, but uses AI-powered sentiment analysis and keyword matching to give real-time, in-the-moment advice on topics ranging from bullying to online safety. In extreme cases, the keyboard intervenes by stopping children from typing and directing them to real-world help.
Alice Webb, Director of BBC Childrens and Education says: “The digital world is a fantastic place for people to learn and share, but we know many young people struggle to find a healthy online balance, especially when they get their first phones. Our Own It app gives them a helping hand as they navigate this new experience, so that they can make the most of the time they spend on their phones whilst avoiding some of the pitfalls. We’re using cutting edge machine learning technology in a way no one has done before, putting help, support, assistance and a bit of fun too directly into young people’s hands at the moments when they need it most.”
Own It is the result of a collaboration between the BBC’s own multi-disciplinary team – spanning UX, editorial, tech and product – along with external partners. The BBC have worked with experts including psychiatrist Richard Graham and the non-profit organisation Internet Matters to shape the proposition with a combination of subject-matter knowledge and design-thinking.
The first phase of the design work for Own It focused on ideation. Children’s digital agency Complete Control helped the BBC to generate ideas and prototypes, while Manchester-based agency Code Computerlove helped to develop the proposition and brand. The design sprint methodology solved a major challenge around permissions, and led to the inclusion of a keyboard alongside the app.
The app itself is packed with specially-commissioned content from BBC Own It and the rest of the BBC, created to give young people resources to build healthy online behaviours and habits. Most importantly, it encourages young people to have open, honest and regular conversations with their parents about their online experiences. The app is not a monitoring tool, and does not provide reports or feedback to parents. Nothing the child types ever leaves their phone.
The app was built by Glasgow-based development agency Chunk, and AI experts Privately in collaboration with the BBC. It launched in September 2019, and has been iterated since then based on user interaction and feedback.