The developers of Sheboard, a new keyboard application built for Android, want to make people more aware of the language they use about girls by serving up positive word alternatives to users while they’re texting.
The app was built by Plan International Finland, an organisation that advocates for children’s rights and gender equality for girls. Plan International points to research it says proves that people often unknowingly choose different words for when they’re talking to or about girls versus boys. These differences in word choice, depicted in a promotional video for the Sheboard app, incentivise stereotypes and impact girls’ self-esteem at young age, according to the organisation.
So Plan set out to fix the problem with an app that suggests words while you’re typing, similar to the way your default predictive keyboard would do.
Here’s how Sheboard works:
The Sheboard interface (pictured right) was designed to be similar to the default keyboard for Android phones (pictured left).
It may not have all the same bells and whistles as Google’s keyboard, but the Sheboard works pretty similarly and has its own machine-learning technology that makes the predictions better the more you use it.
The keyboard uses predictive text technology to suggest words associated with positive ideas like intellect, strength, and bravery.
It also replaces some commonly used phrases.
The keyboard suggested “adventurer” before “princess” was even fully typed out (it pulled it up when it just said “prin”).
And if the person texting commits to the phrase, ignoring the previous suggestion, it offers ways to change the final product.
Sheboard has similar suggestions when the user talks about women.
The free app is already available worldwide from the Google Play Store.
It’s only available in English for now, but Plan hopes to make it accessible for people in all the countries it works in. It’s also only available on Android, with no word on whether or not it will ever be available on iOS devices.
Sheboard is also “supported by” Samsung Electronics Nordic, which means the company funded the app and provided some expertise about mobile technology, according to the website’s FAQ.
The app is supposed to be a conversation-starter more than it is a solution, according to Plan International. Here’s the promotional video Plan made, in full.
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