How do we make the internet a safer and more positive place for young people and kids? It’s not an easy question to answer, but three top ideas trying to tackle the issue in new and different ways were brought together Thursday, 6 December at Google Campus for Interactivism Think Kids Pitch Day. Organised by Google and the NSPCC, and in partnership with FutureGov and Coadec, the event was a culmination of a call for ideas and products on Simpl Challenges. The day brought together the three shortlisted projects, ready to receive feedback from experts and pitch to a panel of judges before crowning the winner of the day.
We’ve put together a Storify of social media activity from the event, so please have a look to see what people were saying. You can look at our Flickr collection of photographs, or see the video of the day:
Before we start to detail the day, thank you to everyone who came along to Interactivism Think Kids Pitch Day and made it a success! The energy, insight, and interest from all the attendees, idea owners, judges and organisers made for a thought-provoking and inspiring day.
The day began with an opening speech by Peter Liver, Director of ChildLine, who thanked the event partners and talked about what an amazing tool the internet can be for young people, to play, learn and explore, as well as seek out help and support from safe spaces like ChildLine. He also talked about how there are still many risks to young people online as well, but that digital solutions like those being highlighted at Interactivism, are taking big steps to reduce those risks.
Once the introductions were complete, we broke out into three groups filled with experts – young people, parents, teachers, entrepreneurs, policy people, and others with a keen interest in internet safety – who would soon be grilling our project teams to make sure their pitch and products were air tight. After some ice-breakers, each team had two minutes to pitch to a group, and 20 minutes to answer questions, hear feedback and discuss improvements to their project. This process happened three times, with each team pitching and hearing feedback from each group. We were incredibly impressed to listen and hear the discussions – we never doubted the attendees would be anything less than great, but even so! The questions asked were thoughtful and challenging, and really tested the ideas and their owners. The variety of people there also meant that the project teams received feedback from a range of viewpoints, from parents and kids to businesses and practitioners.
Once our feedback sessions were complete, we asked the three project owners to talk about what they learned from the groups, and how they planned on developing their project based on the feedback they’d received. The feedback ranged from enhancing the educational value, to issues of children’s privacy versus duty of care, and ideas around delivery and development.
After lunch, Our MC for the afternoon, Newsround’s own Ore Oduba, guided us into the Dragon’s Den style section of the day. Dr. Linda Papadopoulos, the chair of our judging panel, kicked things off with a few words about her experience as a parent and psychologist when it comes to internet safety, particularly driving home the point, “The internet is like a teenager, it’s growing up as our children are growing up.” Dr Linda was leading a group of judges well-versed in digital innovation, online safety and young people – Jon Brown, Head of Strategy and Development at NSPCC; Jeff Lynn of Seedrs and Coadec; our very own Dominic, and two young expert young people, Hamza and Ciarán. After some inspiring words, it was time for our project teams to do their final pitches.
First up was TwoTen, the white-labeling proxy filtering system that adapts as your children grows. Named for the age range it’s meant to target, and with the tagline “Turning the internet into a children’s playground,” founder Chris Puttick explained how TwoTen is trying to change the perceptions and messages that come with filtering systems. While most filtering systems rely on fear and danger, blocking sites without offering any alternatives, TwoTen, with their friendly mascot Peepus, offer similar, but approved sites as alternatives to blocked ones. Based on their morning feedback, Chris also talked about developing an educational section to the service, as well as an at-home version which would allow parents to manage filtering levels for multiple users as once. The questions from the judges included where gaps or loopholes in the filtering system might be, and how the business model (a subscription service) would work.
Next up was Second Friend, an anonymous, single-click, text-based support service that links young people up to professional support workers. Founded at EUHackathon and developed further at UnDoc Camp, Second Friend can be accessed through mobile, web, or SMS, and is based on its inventor’s research which shows that young people prefer using text-based channels to communicate. The idea is to use Second Friend as an umbrella service, which will then direct young people to the appropriate helpline. The possibility of a counsellor dashboard could mean the ability to speak to multiple young people at once. With a prototype already working, they are in the process of testing and building functionality, and working with helplines to develop the necessary networks to make the service run well. The biggest debate brought on by the judges was the question of anonymity versus duty of care – if a child can’t be traced and is in serious need trouble, how is a helpline able to find the child? It was an issue Second Friend’s founder Florian Rathgeber is keen to work with helplines to develop and improve.
Last but not least, Digital Disruption presented The Vaccination Game that uses gaming to give young people a taste of the tricks and pitfalls of online dangers, making them savvier and smarter when they navigate the internet. Digital Disruption is a successful campaign and teaching resource to “build a web savvy generation,” and The Vaccination Game is their latest idea to give young people the “street smarts” they need online. The game is still in early development stage and could take on two different forms – as a single-player game, where the player is the GateKeeper, given the task of deciding what information is true, and what is a trap, or, as a social sharing game where friends can share bogus information, in an attempt trick them into falling into the trap, and learning about how to discern safe and unsafe information on the web in the process. The questions from the judges mostly focused around what product they would be judging, as this project is at an earlier stage as the others.
With the pitches finished, the judges gathered to deliberate and make their final decision. While they were off, Martin Wilson, Director of Policy, Research and Insight at Go On UK gave a keynote speech about their campaign to make the UK the most digitally capable country in the world. As a father of five, Martin has plenty of experience with digital natives, but said it’s wrong to assume all young people are digitally literate – the digital divide cuts through young people as well as older people. 16 million people in the UK don’t have basic online skills – Go On UK wants to change that by not only teaching people the basic skills they need to use the internet, but also how to use those skills and navigate safely online. Go On UK have set up a Digital Skills Charter with their partners to work together to bridge this digital knowledge gap.
With the judges in agreement, they returned to the group to give the final verdict of the day. They have positive and promising things to say about each idea, and the decision was not an easy one. In the end, it was TwoTen who came out on top. Their proxy filtering system won over the judges with its positive, productive twist on traditional blacklisting parental control systems, as well as its strength as a product and business. As the winner, TwoTen will get space in Google Campus to work on and development the service.
Thank you again to everyone who came along, and congratulations to all the ideas who participated. Online safety is a big issue, with a lot of scope for innovative techniques and tools to reduce risks and increase knowledge of how to stay safe online, and it is brilliant to see these stellar ideas driving forward to make a real impact.