Own It: BBC launches app to promote children’s wellbeing online

Written by Our News Team, DigitalAgenda

The BBC has today launched a new online safety app for children.

The app uses keyboard software that can identify when the child is about to share sensitive data or an upsetting image; or is using insulting language. It then prompts a pop-up message to encourage the child to consider the impact of their communication.

Own It is designed to offer help and support to the child, with encouragement to have open, honest and regular conversations with a trusted adult about their online experiences. It also includes a diary function, where the child can record their emotions.

Crucially the app does not have a reporting system for parents to oversee their kids’ phone use.

Alice Webb, director of BBC Children’s and Education, said: “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.

“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.”

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Alice Webb participated in the Digital Leaders podcast earlier in the year, chatting to Robin Knowles about how the ‘Own It’ app would influence children’s behaviour online. You can listen to the full podcast here. 

Professor Sonia Livingstone, Professor of Social Psychology at LSE, thought the app would be ‘warmly welcomed’ by some parents, and that it would ‘stimulate constructive conversations between children and parents.’

Professor Livingstone is one of the contributors to DigitalAgenda’s recently published Power & Responsibility Green Paper; and heads the EU Kids Online project, which researches the digital diets of younger people. She said that one of the ‘strengths’ of the app was the effort it took to protect a child’s privacy. This is in stark contrast to most online safety apps for kids which monitor and control children’s online lives.

In addition to the development of the Own It app, the BBC supported children’s wellbeing online by sponsoring the 2019 Impact Awards Safety category, which was won by Be Strong Online Anti-Bullying Ambassadors campaign. In a similar way, the campaign trusts children to deal with the problem of bullying themselves, training teenage ‘ambassadors’ to run anti-bullying workshops for their peers.

At the Impact Awards in March, Catherine McAllister, Lead for Online Safety and Head of Safeguarding at the BBC’s Children’s Department, chatted with Dawn Austwick about the Own It app, which has been in development since 2018 and has drawn on support from many different child-focused charities and welfare groups.

You can find out more about the project here.

Find out more about safety online at our Power and Responsibility Summit.

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