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The BBC has launched an A.I. app designed to help kids safely use cell phones

Key Points
  • While being online can offer children benefits, there are also drawbacks and dangers.
  • When it comes to keeping people safe on the internet, innovation and technology will play key roles in the years ahead. 

The BBC has released a machine learning app designed to help, advise and even caution children when they are typing messages on their phones.

The app, which is called 'Own It', includes a specially designed keyboard which appears when a child is typing a message on their device.

According to the public broadcaster, the keyboard is able to offer "real-time, in-the-moment help and advice on whatever a child is typing." If the app considers the message could be insulting or even bullying it might prompt the phone user to reconsider sending it.

Additionally, the app can understand if a child is typing out personal details and then prompt them to "think twice about whether it is safe to share."

It can also comprehend language which may suggest a child is in trouble, offering advice and encouraging them to speak to an adult they can trust. Children can also use to the app to record how they are feeling, with advice and assistance offered in response.

The Own It app also aims to help children manage the amount of time they spend looking at their screen.

While being online can offer children and young people benefits such as access to educational content, there are also drawbacks and dangers. These can include cyberbullying, exposure to disturbing content and inappropriate, unwanted contact from adults.

In May 2019, communications regulator Ofcom said that 79% of internet users aged 12 to 15 claimed "to have had at least one potentially harmful experience online" in the past year.

When it comes to keeping people safe on the internet, innovation and technology will have a great deal of influence in the years ahead.

"Technology, now and in the future, has a massive role to play when it comes to protecting children online," Laura Randall, associate head of Child Safety Online at the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC), said in a statement issued to CNBC via email.

"It is already an indispensable part of law enforcement's drive to remove child abuse images from the internet and catch those responsible for making them," Randall added.

"Tech companies should also be required to design in child protection measures as they develop the latest apps and games, and not when they are already in use, making grooming and online abuse much more difficult to commit," she said.