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Can apps help young people with (psychological) problems?

3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Foto: unsplash.com/C. Quintero-Franco

During the Corona pandemic, many different people were not well. Loneliness, worries and insecurity also troubled young people. It is quite normal for young people to seek advice on the Net when they have problems. When searching for help, one quickly comes across so-called psycho apps. Unfortunately, these are not always helpful, but can even have the opposite effect.

Empty promises and misdiagnoses

Psychology or diagnosis apps entice users with the promise of quick and easy help for mental health problems such as depression. While some of the offers only provide diagnosis and prevention, others even advertise the prospect of cure. However, such apps and their content are usually not developed by experts and do not meet scientific standards. This can quickly lead to misdiagnoses that can greatly unsettle and frighten adolescents. Even if the app makes a correct diagnosis, users are left alone and do not receive the help they need.

Images and descriptions of self-injury may animate those at risk

Particularly problematic are chat-based offerings in which users anonymously post their problems in public forums and other people comment on the posts. Besides heartbreak or own insecurities, even suicidal thoughts or photos of self-harm are shared and discussed. The posts in these forums are not moderated by real experts, nor is content reviewed and filtered. Vulnerable people can be triggered or even animated by certain images and messages, making them feel even worse. It is not uncommon in such communities for the shared suffering to create a sense of community and affirmation from which they find it difficult to emerge. Cases of cybergrooming, in which adults take advantage of the vulnerable state of young people, are also possible.

Questionable data protection of many psycho apps

In addition, many of these apps ask users to provide accurate information about their health and mental state. Some providers share their users’ data with third-party providers such as Facebook. These mostly use the data for advertising purposes. But insurance companies and credit providers are also increasingly interested in this type of data. This may result in not having health insurance in the future or other disadvantages.

In chat-based apps, users are supposedly anonymous. But many young people give out phone numbers or addresses over time. Data that can quickly conclude the identity of the person.

What can you do as a parent?

As a parent, you should educate your child about the dangers of such psycho apps and what they are all about. In this video from funk the topic is presented in a way that is suitable for young people.

Offer to help with problems and show interest. If your child feels like they are not on their own when problems arise, they are less likely to seek help online. Young people in particular are reluctant to talk to their own parents about their problems. Therefore, show your child appropriate services and how to seek help on their own.

Good digital help services for mental health problems

Parents and children can receive support and advice anonymously, e.g. via the Nummer gegen Kummer (116 111) or the telephone counselling service (0800 1110111). Young people can also seek help themselves via juuuport. de if they have problems online.

Some psychotherapists offer digital consultation hours. To make sure that the person giving the advice is a therapist, check the person’s imprint, for example. There you can get information about the address or contact by phone for the time being. Also, take a closer look at the resume: Does the person have accredited training to offer psychotherapeutic help? If these points apply, you can also use the help digitally.

Some therapists recommend the use of certain apps, as an accompaniment to talk therapy. These apps are developed by experts, are government approved, and require a prescription.

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