Smart­phone apps could mon­i­tor teen psy­ches

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Lind­sey Tan­ner

We are track­ing the equiv­a­lent of a heart­beat for the hu­man brain.” Dr. Alex Leow, an app de­vel­oper and as­so­ci­ate pro­fes­sor of psy­chi­a­try and bio­engi­neer­ing at the Univer­sity of Illi­nois’ Chicago cam­pus

Ris­ing sui­cide rates and de­pres­sion in U.S. teens and young adults have prompted re­searchers to ask a provoca­tive ques­tion: Could the same de­vices that some peo­ple blame for con­tribut­ing to tech-age angst also be used to de­tect it?

The idea has sparked a race to de­velop apps that warn of im­pend­ing men­tal health crises. Call it smart­phone psy­chi­a­try or child psy­chol­ogy 2.0.

Stud­ies have linked heavy smart­phone use with wors­en­ing teen men­tal health. But as teens scroll through In­sta­gram and Snapchat, tap out texts or watch YouTube videos, they also leave dig­i­tal foot­prints that might of­fer clues to their psy­cho­log­i­cal well-be­ing.

Changes in typ­ing speed, voice tone, word choice and how of­ten kids stay home could sig­nal trou­ble, ac­cord­ing to pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies.

Lau­rel Fos­ter is one of the teen par­tic­i­pants in Stan­ford Univer­sity re­search test­ing whether smart­phones can be used to help de­tect de­pres­sion and po­ten­tial self-harm.

Pho­tos by Haven Da­ley, As­so­ci­ated Press file

Lau­rel Fos­ter looks at In­sta­gram in San Fran­cisco in Novem­ber. De­vel­op­ers say as teens scroll through some apps, they leave dig­i­tal foot­prints that may of­fer clues about their psy­ches.

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