Some interesting thoughts from Alice Webb, director of BBC Children’s and BBC North:
We want to reach kids wherever they are, but how should the BBC interact with children in digital spaces they shouldn’t be in – like the growing number of under 13s who use social media despite the fact that most social media platforms including Facebook and Twitter don’t allow children under 13 to join? At the last count, 50% of 10-12 year olds in the UK are on some sort of social media site. Other people are in this space in the BBC’s name, but what is the right approach for us?
The BBC’s CBeebies and CBBC are the only providers of public service TV content for children on dedicated platforms in a sea of non-public service content. We want to have an offer that combines both digital and traditional linear services, so that we are covering both bases. But this requires us to do more at a time when budgets are tighter than ever. What’s the right balance, and where should our focus lie?
We want to stay connected and relevant to kids by providing them with ever more personalised and specific experiences. But personalisation requires data about viewing habits and so on, so what level of data should be collected by the BBC for the provision of services to children? What about permissions, bearing in mind that when we talk about children we mean under 18s? And what should we do with the data we are able to collect?
We want to make sure that, however digital we are, we provide enough content – and crucially, access – for kids who are disadvantaged or vulnerable. We want our digital services to be for everyone in a way that’s democratic and inclusive. How can we avoid (accidentally) putting up digital walls that exclude the kids who may need us the most?
These are just some of the questions being debated inside the BBC right now. I know everybody has their own set of questions and concerns depending on their point of view – producer, broadcaster, parent, carer, teacher and more.
And when looking at how to navigate through the digital world for children, it is clear we can’t and shouldn’t do this on our own, and that neither should anyone else working in the children’s media sector.
To young people, the boundaries and distinctions that have traditionally been established between genres, platforms and devices mean nothing; ditto the reasoning behind the watershed system with its roots in decisions about suitability of content. What does this mean? It means that we have to adapt and start thinking more like they do.