Growing up has never lacked challenges, but it seems today's kids are having an especially rough time. Research varies, but the number of kids with anxiety and depression is at an all-time high. Though the links among social media, tech use and mental health issues aren't entirely clear, we do know that kids who are already struggling often come away from social media feeling worse than they did before they scrolled through their feeds.
Of course, talking to them and getting in-person, professional help is the first and best course of action if you think your kid is struggling. But there are also ways kids can carry around sources of support — right on their phones.
For text support, tools such as the Crisis Text Line offer immediate help. And for LGBTQ kids, who are more at risk for suicide than the general population, It Gets Better and The Trevor Project provide resources and counseling services.
But kids who are feeling anxious or depressed can also turn to one or more of these apps when talking to someone in person feels overwhelming or logistically difficult, like when it's late at night.
1. For immediate help
- Calm Harm - Manages Self Harm
When teens feel compelled to harm themselves in times of distress, this app offers them lots of ways to derail those impulses under categories like Comfort, Distract and Breathe. After they choose a method, they set a timer so they can move on when the urge passes. Over time, they might be able to internalize these strategies. Teens can also include a personal call list so they can reach out to someone in those moments.
2. For ongoing support
- Virtual Hope Box
This tool uses three modes — Remind Me, Distract Me and Relax Me — to help teens stay connected during stressful times. Teens can store images, such as personal photos, and activities, such as songs, quotations, and even games such as Sudoku, to use when they need to. They can also meditate or use a "coping card" they've pre-created.
3. For a positive focus
- Apart of Me
This unique app uses a gentle adventure-game approach to tackle tough topics. By exploring a beautiful world, getting guidance from its characters and doing periodic meditations, kids can learn about some tools for handling tough times. Apart of Me also offers audio recordings from real kids that provide a model for working through difficulties.
- Three Good Things
This teen-created app lets kids write about three positive experiences every day. They can also set a daily reminder and review old entries to remind them of their positive thoughts.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published by Common Sense Media in 2019 and republished with permission.