Supporting wellbeing online through creative play with loved ones

Providing a safe space online where people can laugh, draw and play together with their friends and family, wherever they are in the world.

What are the objectives?

In the UK, the children’s charity The Children’s Society has reported that the wellbeing of children is at a ten year low1, marking a decade of decline. Low wellbeing has been linked to depression, anxiety, reduced school attendance, lack of concentration, disrupted sleep and other health problems.

Study2 after study3 shows that the critical ingredient for wellbeing and happiness is having positive, supportive relationships - particularly with friends and family. This is just as true for adults4 as it is for children.

Connecting to the people we love is vital

Squiggle aims to provide a safe space online where children and young people can laugh, draw and play together with their friends and family, wherever they are in the world.

Through the miracle of the internet, Squiggle establishes a secure real-time connection to the friend who lives on the next block or the cousin who lives on the other side of the planet.

Squiggle provides a global platform to facilitate and encourage these positive, supportive relationships that are so critical to the wellbeing of all involved.

It is important that Squiggle is open to all, therefore it is - and will always be - free to play.

Lessons from lockdown

Lockdown taught us the importance of connection. It showed us that video conferencing tools such as Zoom can help when you can’t physically be with somebody, but they can come at a cost too. Many suffered from “Zoom fatigue” and found the interaction awkward and exhausting5.

Parents keen to maintain contact between their young children and the grandparents or extended family found that the participants - young and old - struggled to engage in this abstract, conversation-led, 2D environment.

Just talking is hard. It isn’t always easy to engage in a meaningful way in a phone call or video call. And it certainly isn’t easy for an adult to keep a child engaged remotely.

While COVID-19 rarely causes severe illness in children and young people, the pandemic took its toll in other ways. Surveys and studies6 show that many children reported feeling lonely and isolated, and parents of younger children had concerns about their child’s lack of communication with people outside the household7.

The good news is that research8 has shown that digital forms of social interaction, such as Squiggle, can engender positive social connection and help to mitigate the effects of physical or geographical distancing on a relationship of importance. They do make a genuine difference.

A note from Dan…

My own personal experiences of these challenges during lockdown were the direct inspiration for Squiggle.

I realized that shifting the focus from the conversation onto a shared collaborative activity, such as solving a wordsearch together, would make the experience much more natural and engaging for my children and indeed their grandparents.

This simple difference meant that my children, then aged eight and four, went from stilted five minute Zoom calls to hour-long Squiggle sessions (each) with their grandparents and cousins. At a hugely difficult time this provided a significant boost to morale all round and helped with the logistics of juggling work, homeschool and parenting.

Where we’re at today

Squiggle is still an early stage startup. It has been entirely developed in Dan’s spare time as a side project and has not received any funding or investment. All usage is as a result of word-of-mouth recommendations or organic search results.

Usage analytics show that it is popular with school students, particularly in the US, Australia, New Zealand and the Middle East - locations with many expat communities and transnational families. Many Squiggle calls are established between Australia and the UK for example.

It is an exciting time for Squiggle; global usage is growing, schools are sharing Squiggle with their students and families, and exciting new features - such as chess - have recently been added.

In some countries, such as here in the UK, COVID-19 restrictions have been easing and we are now allowed to spend time with loved ones again. However, strict international travel restrictions remain in place and some people are not yet comfortable to return to pre-pandemic socializing - especially with children who attend school. As a result there are still many people without regular, positive social connection with their friends and family.

Dan’s aim is to get Squiggle out there to as many people as possible; even if they’re no longer affected by the pandemic. Hopefully Squiggle can become an extra string to the bow for families and friends looking to keep in touch in new and different ways.

How you can help

Play Squiggle! Let us know how you get on and if you have any ideas for improvements.

And share Squiggle! Tell the world.