Chatbots to Support Children in Coping with Online Threats: Socio-technical Requirements

Piccolo, Lara; Troullinou, Pinelopi and Alani, Harith (2021). Chatbots to Support Children in Coping with Online Threats: Socio-technical Requirements. In: Designing Interactive Systems Conference 2021 (DIS ’21), ACM, New York.



Online threats to children, in the form of cyberbullying, grooming, and sexting, have reached unprecedented and alarming levels. Support is still lacking despite endless efforts by child safety organisations and online safety educational programmes. This is mainly due to children feeling apprehensive in such situations, ashamed of revealing their distressing encounter to an adult or even for not having anyone to approach with their concerns. This paper investigates how children envision the potential support of a chatbot in such contexts. We captured design requirements for such a chatbot through a participatory design approach involving 110 schoolchildren in the UK. Using LEGO figures, they elaborated and performed stories featuring the interaction of a child under threat with a chatbot. The analysis of the dialogues in their performances and their reflections resulted in a set of expected tasks for the chatbot, a conversation flow, and novel socio-technical requirements addressing potential users’ main concerns and expectations.

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