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The BBC has created a new app designed to help young people using mobile phones make smart choices, feel more confident and access advice tailored to how they’re feeling.

The first-of-its-kind app is part of the BBC’s commitment to supporting young people in today’s changing digital environment.  Its innovative features were developed through an in-depth audience research and prototype testing process in conjunction with Manchester digital studio Code Computerlove, part of the Mediacom North group.

Using a combination of self-reporting and machine learning, the app builds up a picture of a child’s digital wellbeing and serves relevant content, information and interventions designed to help them understand the impact that their online behaviours can have on themselves, and on others.

The app was a result of a collaborative design sprint process between Code and the BBC team, with bespoke key features of the app including:

A sentiment analysis keyboard. As well as the regular features of a keyboard this custom version detects the sentiment of messages and interjects with helpful advice to prevent negativity or bullying.

Users can keep a diary of their emotions and record how they’re feeling and why. Using machine learning technology, in response, the app can offer help and support, giving advice if their behaviour strays outside safe and sensible norms. Children can access the app at any time to get instant, on-screen advice and support the moment they need it.

Code’s Design Director, Chris Heg explains the processes that shaped the product.  

“The BBC had already launched the Own It website, which is full of fun and empowering tips, insight, stories and advice to help 8-12 year olds get the most out of their time online, when they approached us to help them explore the potential of the app. 

“We started with three design sprints, each one tailored to tackle a specific challenge. Sprint one aimed to answer the question ‘How might we create an app that supports children’s emotional wellbeing online and helps them develop key skills to build resilience?’ Through a set of exercises designed to unpack the question, identify key challenges and generate ideas, we started to form an app based on self-reporting and self-reflection, all through fun and intuitive interactions.

“Sprint two was aimed at exploring the look and feel of the app further. Regular user testing sessions with our target age group of 8-12-year olds helped us gain valuable insights and evolve the design.

“Off the back of this, we put together a detailed document that outlined how the design had been considered from an accessibility point of view, and what actions had been taken to make the app usable for as many people as possible. The BBC’s ‘Own It’ brand was applied across key screens alongside a full style guide.”

Chris added: “In the final design sprint, we created a high-fidelity prototype that looked and felt like a real app. Showcasing the fun features we’d designed, the prototype aimed to show off its full potential.

”It has been an exceptionally rewarding project to have been part of and we were particularly proud when the The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tested the app on live TV.

“Digital wellness is a big global concern and kids have specific needs. It’s great to be part of the BBC’s ongoing commitment to teach the new generation of mobile users how to be smarter and safer online and importantly help to reduce the negative impact social media is having on children’s mental health.”

Ashleigh Smith
Article by Ashleigh Smith
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