An empathy app

This developer created a tool to help kids understand themselves and those around them.

Louis C.K.’s appearance on Conan a few years ago has been widely cited as a bluntly eloquent description, in the comedian’s inimitable style, of the problem with kids and cellphones.

“They don’t look at people when they talk to them and they don’t build empathy,” he said. “Kids are mean, and it’s because they’re trying it out.” When kids insult their peers in the normal course of things, they witness the pain in the other child’s face and experience a miserable feeling of their own in the pit of the stomach. “But when they write, ‘You’re fat,’ they just go, ‘Mmmm, that was fun. I liked that,’” he said.

So what if there were an app to help kids build empathy? Brooklyn-based app design studio Tinybop has developed a tool that encourages kids to look inside themselves.

Founder Raul Gutierrez told Fastco Design that the Me app’s goal is to help kids “understand themselves, the world around them, their feelings, and the feelings of those around them” in order to help combat bullying.

Kids create a likeness of themselves for an avatar and pick their favourite colour for a theme, before the app engages them to tell more about themselves by taking a picture of their pet or describing what they do before bed. But it also encourages kids to explore emotional states, like fear, by asking what colour they associate with the emotion and engaging fear in an interactive way.

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election, Gutierrez said it’s more urgent to help kids appreciate the consequence of words and how conversations add up to something bigger.

Of course, Louis C.K. was making a bigger point about phones and how they prevent people from being alone and, well, facing the void at the core of existence.”You never feel completely sad or completely happy. You just feel kind of satisfied with your products, and then you die. So that’s why I don’t want to get a phone for my kids.”

There may not be an app for that one.