Nudging towards healthier data relationships

26th Sep 2019
Friendlee rethinks a platform’s responsibility to “nudge” towards positive online behavior. The goal is to promote active and positive online experiences amongst young people, who might run the risk of otherwise carelessly engaging online and potentially inappropriately.
Product Context

Friendlee is a social app that allows people to interact with their friends online both actively by sharing photos, videos and chatting with other people on the site, or passively by consuming content posted by others without necessarily having to participate themselves.

In order to provide the service, Friendlee is powered by some of the following data:

  • The Friendlee app collects data that allows them to categorize people by age. This can be used to assess who is a child and educate and improve online behavior through gentle nudging.
  • Friendlee also identifies the subject matter of all content posted on the site and can categorize content and enable tag recommendations.

Problem & Opportunity

Young people often access unlimited content with minimal parent/guardian involvement. There’s an opportunity for Friendlee to introduce age appropriate guardrails to support children to make healthy choices while maintaining their feeling of independence.

How might we...

...How might we educate minors on the impact of their online behavior?

Design Features
In-context education about recent online activity (1)

Friendlee identifies the subject matter of all content posted on the site and can categorize it to enable tag recommendations.

By using this data, Friendlee is able to make minors aware of their online behavior and proactively recommend educational activities based on their consumption of content on the platform.

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Design Features
In-context education about recent online activity (2)

Friendlee is transparent with the information that it collects and how it is used to create a profile and recommendations .

Design Features
Time and trigger-based interruptions of passive content consumption

This feature considers the platform’s responsibility to encourage positive online behavior and acts to nudge minors out of a passive consumption cycle using friendly prompts that appear after a certain time.

There is also a link for the child to look at their viewing habits by framing them as statistics, which might interest them. Gamification of features may increases the likelihood of creating a positive feedback loop by prompting self-reflection on an activity.

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Design Features
Incremental nudges to encourage more balanced, healthier online experiences

There is a risk that the platform interventions can start to feel abrasive to young people. To combat this, Friendlee introduces an incremental, tiered system of nudges to influence behavior, together with prompts for pro-social breaks. Ultimately the young person can choose to ignore them, thereby maintaining their own autonomy.

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Next steps

When we considered the tiering prompts the idea of a “time out” feature could be as a simple way of encouraging the young person to take a break from the screen. A more extreme version would give the minor the option of implementing “algorithmic amnesia”. This idea would be educational in nature as it would temporarily remove past consumption records so that recommendations would not be based on past online behavior.

This would demonstrate the degree to which online services learn about people using the service over time, also allowing the young person to burst through some of the spheres of interests that have influenced their experience to date.

Further research is required to understand the appropriate time scale for nudges. Debate on where the responsibility lies for providing support and education, and guardrails, while still allowing minors to have autonomy online, is necessary.