Introducing TOTEM - The bespoke social media app created by KGS students

Academic

Kingston Grammar School students have today launched an exciting first-of-its-kind social media app aimed at encouraging fellow students to use social media safely.

Developed and designed by Play Consulting, a successful London-based tech start-up, in collaboration with the Year 8 KGS students, the social media app, TOTEM, is aimed at helping to dispel the negativity around social media while encouraging students to use it responsibly.

The project is part of Kingston Grammar School’s ‘Be Happy’ wellbeing pastoral programme and required students to brainstorm the best way to use social media to create a safe space to communicate and collaborate. They also worked as a team to create personalised in-app content and badges that encourage the right kind of online behaviours. The results will be used to further develop the app so that students can safely navigate their way through social media.

Head Master Stephen Lehec says: “The Totem app not only aims to teach children basic online ‘dos and don’ts’ but also allows teachers to observe students’ online behaviour. We can see at a glance, for instance, who may be being left out or can ask students to reflect on the impact of their posts. We think it could be a game-changer when it comes to monitoring student wellbeing and online safety.”

He added that parents have been incredibly supportive of this development: “They are all aware of social media’s potency – and like most adults feel a bit uneasy that their social media skills often lag behind those of their tech-savvy children. Our approach acknowledges that reality – but accepts that just because so much social interaction has moved online doesn’t mean we as a school can evade our responsibilities.”

Play Consulting founder Marcus Thornley said, “Schools need a sensible attitude to social media. It’s not something that is going away, so the way forward is through open discussion and education, not prohibition. KGS’s honest, forward-thinking and open approach with their students means they now have asafe social media experience – we include parental consent, have no private messaging, and all users are verified. The KGS students learned how software is designed and built a frame around which to talk about the issues raised by technology - privacy, safety, online behaviour, content etc. This pro-bono project has been a great example of education and industry collaboration.”

Students Poppy Farrell and Stanley Farrant said: “We have had so much fun developing this app – it has been a great way to learn what goes into tech development and to learn how we should use social media to our advantage. It’s fun to recognise people for their achievements using Kudos and has been a great experience.”