Chat­bot app ‘keeps chil­dren safe on­line’

The Irish Mail on Sunday - - NEWS - By Jake Hur­furt

IT’S A dilemma for ev­ery par­ent – how to keep chil­dren safe on so­cial me­dia with­out mon­i­tor­ing ev­ery post.

Now devel­op­ers of a new smart­phone app claim to have the an­swer – a friendly ‘bot’ that warns young­sters to think again be­fore they send naked pho­tos, ex­plicit mes­sages or per­sonal de­tails on­line.

The Oy­oty app de­tects when a pic­ture shows too much flesh and asks the child to think again. It can send alerts to par­ents – but the aim is to get the chil­dren to curb their own be­hav­iour.

Ir­ish teenagers have the fourth high­est rate of sex­ting in Eu­rope, with one in four post-pri­mary stu­dents ad­mit­ting they have sent ex­plicit texts. So­cial me­dia gi­ants such as Face­book and Snapchat have been crit­i­cised for fail­ing to tackle the prob­lem.

The app also guards against abu­sive and bul­ly­ing lan­guage and against re­veal­ing sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion such as phone num­bers. It runs in the back­ground of a phone, sweep­ing for sus­pi­cious posts. If it spots some­thing, a ‘chat bot’ en­gages with the child. In one ex­am­ple, the app – which does not store any text or im­ages – asks: ‘There is a lot of skin show­ing in this pic­ture. I won­der if you might need to stop and think about shar­ing this?’

De­vel­oper Deepak Te­wari said: ‘This is not about telling chil­dren what to do; it is about ed­u­cat­ing them and help­ing them to make their own in­formed choices.’

safety: Help­ful Oy­oty app

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