NSPCC has revealed a new ‘nickname generator’ tool that bolsters children’s anonymity when using its Childline service.
The tool, developed with Kin + Carter Connect, saves massive amounts of time for employees, and takes into account the likes of neurodivergent children, LGBTQ+ children, kids who may have lost a pet and so on.
With the new tool, nicknames are created when the child first signs up to Childline and appear in one-to-one chats, message boards and image galleries across Childline’s online services. Previously, 60% of the names generated by children were rejected – a potentially confusing experience for a vulnerable child who identifies with a certain name.
“Children want the opportunity to personalise their accounts, but this puts them at risk of giving away personal information when accessing our confidential services,” says Samantha Keith, Head of Digital Production at NSPCC. “Automated generation provides a light-hearted, easy way to create a Childline account and access our online services, while reducing the amount of time our staff spend on moderation.”
Sensitivity is required when providing a nickname to a vulnerable child, therefore the solution has been designed inclusively, and with empathy. Kin + Carta Connect reviewed and considered a broad range of scenarios through its own inclusive user research, which shaped how the automated naming conventions should work.
The nicknames are generated from word lists including an adjective, verb, a wild animal and a random four-digit number, such as MarvellousYawningPlatypus1234. An option to later amend the nickname is also available in the Childline Locker, for those children who feel strongly about changing it.
Domestic animals have been removed from word lists that may evoke unpleasant memories for children, for example QuietBrownDog2021 might be problematic if the child has lost a loved pet. Instead, the tool uses exotic and typically wild animals, such as dolphins and even armadillos.
“We needed to be mindful of the fact we are assigning an identity to a vulnerable child,” says James Fox, Experience Director at Kin + Carta Connect. “Our research showed that users can have strong associations with colour relating to context, personality or identity.
“We didn’t want to create a solution where we trigger an emotional response between colour and gender for an LGBTQ+ user, for instance. Similarly, we considered use cases for neurodivergent children, like a preference or aversion of specific colours for children with autism spectrum disorder. Our aim was to ensure we avoided situations where colour association could affect a child completing the sign-up journey and create a barrier to access.”
In addition, Title-case or UpperCamelCase text has been used, optimising the experience for screen reader technology and ensuring the nicknames are accessible to as wide an audience as possible.
Manually moderating nicknames only takes 30-60 seconds per person on average, but more than 140,000 new Childline accounts were set up in 2019, with that number rising further the following year. A fully automated process gives NSPCC employees the freedom to prioritise action over admin.
Eloise Maslewski, Group Account Director at Kin + Carta Connect, concludes: “Our remit was two-fold: first, to reduce the time taken by NSPCC teams to process the moderation, but just as importantly, we were tasked with creating an inclusive user experience that would make the Childline services easier to navigate and open to as many children as possible.”