Prince William has helped the BBC launch a new app that will help young people dealing with cyberbullying and will encourage them to make the internet a more positive, caring space.
Britain’s public broadcaster has created the Own It app, which it says is targeted at children who are using their very first phones. It says the app includes a diary that works with machine-learning technology to help kids keep track of their emotions and provides advice if they report feeling unsafe or distressed, including spurring them to speak to adults.
“It is fantastic that the BBC has launched an app which will provide support to young people as they navigate the online world,” the Duke of Cambridge said in a statement. “I am delighted to see this positive and practical outcome resulting from The Royal Foundation Taskforce on the Prevention of Cyberbullying.”
The Own It app also has a special keyboard that scans for language that might be upsetting for someone to read, and encourages the person typing to think about how they would feel if they received such a message. Anything a child types into the app will also never be disclosed to anyone else (including their parents), ensuring it is a safe environment for them to seek advice for problems.
William and Duchess Kate have long been advocates for the mental health of children and youth, a cause they support through The Royal Foundation and many charities of which they are patrons. Supporting that work has taken on new meaning for the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge since becoming parents to their three children: Prince George, 6, Princess Charlotte, 4, and one-year-old Prince Louis.
The BBC is part of The Royal Foundation’s taskforce, which was started in May 2016. William and Kate visited the BBC last November as part of the Stop Speak Support campaign, which encourages young people to speak out about cyberbullying. While there, William said he and Kate wondered what the best course of action was when it came to their own kids dealing with cyberbullying.
“We felt a distinct absence of guidance,” William said at the time, according to People. “Should we read our children’s messages? Should we allow them to have phones and tablets in their rooms? Who do we report bullying to? We were making up the rules as we went along.”
That Own It does not disclose messages to parents will likely give the couple some peace of mind.
“We have to acknowledge that much of the early optimism and hope of social media is giving way to very real concern, and even fear about its impact on our lives.” — The Duke of Cambridge #AntiBullyingWeekpic.twitter.com/75cBTvTAgm
— Kensington Palace (@KensingtonRoyal) November 15, 2018
While at the BBC last November, William also said tech giants and social media companies need to do much more to counter cyberbullying.
“We have seen that the technology that can allow you to develop an online community around a shared hobby or interest can also be used to organize violence,” he said. “The tools that we use to congratulate each other on milestones and successes can also be used to normalize speech that is filled with bile and hate.”
In 2018, William told a group of school children that it was important they not spend all day online.
“For your mental health, get outside, come away from the screen,” he said then, according to People. “By all means, be on a screen, but don’t be on it all day because it will only bring you into another world. It’s important that you balance the time.”