Empowering children and young people to use the internet in a mentally healthy way

The Mental Health Foundation welcomes the BBC’s development and launch of 'Own It', a new app that we believe can contribute significantly towards empowering children and young people to use the internet in a mentally healthy way.

The internet can be a space for learning and connection

It’s very easy to fall into the trap of thinking the internet is all bad or dangerous. But we know there are many benefits of children and young people going online and that the internet offers a wealth of opportunities for education and enrichment.

These include everything from connecting with their friends and family via social media through to following online piano lessons and doing research for their homework.

Among children aged 12 to 15, the vast majority have a smartphone according to the regulator Ofcom. Even among those aged 8 to 11, more than one third have a smartphone.

'Own It' guides rather than dictates online behaviour, allowing children to make decisions themselves

At the Mental Health Foundation, we believe that empowering children and young people to make healthy choices is more effective than telling them what to do. 'Own It' helps them notice what they’re doing and how they’re feeling - and then make decisions themselves. It’s a bit like a friendly adviser in their phone.

The app also encourages children to be more aware of how they’re feeling as they use the internet, including social media. It supports this self-awareness by inviting them to keep a record of their emotions over time. They select the emoticon that best reflects how they are at that moment. They can also use words, if they want to.

Based on what a child records about how they’re feeling, the app will recommend potentially helpful information for them to look at on the internet.

The app encourages children to think twice before sending a potentially hurtful message

Another example of how 'Own It' works is that if a child is typing a message that seems likely to be hurtful to the recipient, then the app will ask whether they’re sure they really want to say that.

We hope that being encouraged to think twice will help make children more aware of how they can affect others, while also reducing the number of hurtful messages that are sent. Online bullying is a significant problem for children and young people.

The app does not send personally identifiable information from the child's phone to parents or the BBC

What the app does not do is to send personally identifiable information about the child using the phone to anyone else. Neither the BBC nor the child’s parents or guardians will receive any information about a child’s interactions with 'Own It'.

The Mental Health Foundation is proud to have supported the launch of 'Own It'. As the BBC says, the app is about “making the internet a kinder place, one message at a time”.

To download the app, go to the Apple or Google Play app stores.