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When Childline first launched, it largely relied on public telephone boxes to offer a safe and secure way for kids to get in contact.
Thirty years later and the concept of a public telephone is probably alien to most children.
Luckily, digital technology now means that it’s easier than ever for young people to seek confidential advice and support. Last year, 1.8m sessions on the Childline website originated on mobile devices, and 71% of counselling sessions were delivered online via email and one-to-one chat.
Taking this into consideration, Childline has decided to take its digital efforts one step further, creating a dedicated app so that children can access its online services direct from their smartphones.
It’s said to be the first ever app of its kind in the UK – here’s a bit of a run down on its features.
Free to download, Childline has deliberately avoided using any branding in its design.
By using the name ‘For Me’ and an ambiguous logo, it ensures that if anyone happens to see the app on a child’s phone, they would not know that it was a Childline service.
Even better, the app requires a pin in order to log in, meaning that nobody but the child can access it – a great way to instil confidence and reassure young users that the service is safe and secure.
Comprehensive help and advice
While the Childline website is a great resource, it might prove difficult for youngsters without direct access to their own computer, or who are worried about others looking at their search history.
With many young people now having their own smartphone, the app provides a direct and instant link to Childline’s comprehensive counselling services.
There is a tonne of information included on the app, ranging from general tips on exam stress through to practical advice like how to make a doctor’s appointment if you're under 16.
I particularly like how the app can be tailored to a specific state of mind. Users can set their mood to ‘depressed’ or ‘stressed’ etc. and it will offer up articles that might be of help in this instance.
This is perhaps useful if a child does not necessarily know why they are feeling a certain way. For example, while they might be able to articulate that they are feeling depressed, seeing an article titled ‘worries about the world’ or ‘isolation’ might prompt them to further explore the reasons why.
Another thing I like is that the app is not merely a one-sided resource – it has plenty of interactive features to encourage children to actively express their feelings.
The Toolbox section has a whole host of creative features, including integrated videos and an ‘art box’, which allows the user to create digital drawings and paintings. These images can be saved to the user’s ‘locker’, where they can also safely keep a mood journal and various other private documents.
This means that if a child does not actively seek further help and support, the app is still likely to act as an aid – even if it’s just as an outlet or a place to store thoughts and feelings.
Message boards and support
If a child does want to seek out help there are continuous prompts to do so, providing users with phone numbers and contact details for a range of support networks.
What’s more, the app also has an in-built message board, where users can ask questions about whatever it is that’s worrying them. This is also likely to be effective for children who don’t want to ask a professional or even an adult – here they can talk to youngsters in similar situations.
Childline’s app cleverly taps into the idea that children today are glued to their smartphones. By opening up a direct link, it offers kids an easy and accessible way to seek help and advice whenever it’s needed.