BBC launches Own It app to help kids manage their digital lives

David Murphy

The BBC has launched an 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 Own It app is part of the BBC’s commitment to supporting young people in today’s changing digital environment. It was 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 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. It features a sentiment analysis keyboard, which 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.

Code’s Design Director, Chris Heg explained the processes that shaped the product. He said: “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. In the final design sprint, we created a high-fidelity prototype that looked and felt like a real app.”