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A Lot or a Little?
The parents' guide to what's in this app.
What Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Selfsea is a health app for iOS and Android devices. The app touches on some serious topics, but the organization that created it has attempted to make the experience comfortable and supportive. Teens can select filters like abuse or eating disorders to hide content that involves those topics, if they would find it upsetting to read about them. They can also customize their content feed to focus on items involving subjects they're interested in. Drug and alcohol use mentions don't glorify either activity, and violence is addressed in a similar way -- frankly, yet respectfully. The community posts about sex and relationships are a little more risqué; some teens have said they're horny and crave sex -- although they were asking for advice on how to quell those feelings, not making any type of online solicitation. The general vibe of a number of teen conversations in the app is very upbeat, congratulatory, and supportive. Teens don't seem to criticize each other often -- they tend to say they can relate to what the other person is saying.
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What’s It About?
The SELFSEA app for 13- to 19-year-olds was launched in May 2022 by the non-profit Peer Health Exchange. Teens can create an account, choose from more than 10 topic-based peer communities, and discuss grief and loss, anxiety, addiction, and other subjects. They can also click on a link and be taken to their device's messaging app to reach out to a trained crisis counselor from another organization. Personal stories, links to external resources, and other items are listed in a separate section. Kids can tailor what they see by choosing keywords.
Is It Any Good?
The app doesn't always provide a deep dive into topics -- a good portion of the content is on external sites -- but it doesn't shy away from tough-to-talk-about subject matter. Losing a loved one, bullying, abortion, and BIPOC mental health are all items Selfsea covers. Under subject headings like Body Image, which contains information on body dysmorphia and learning to love yourself, kids can click on items that link to external resources -- such as a list of 10 ways the Anti-Defamation League suggests people can respond to bullying, or a brief Vimeo clip of a teen explaining why he has experienced communication issues due to ADHD. In addition to reading about topics, teens can digitally converse through the app's communities, which involve similar topics.
The app is upfront about what it can offer -- and what it can't. Described as a safe space where young people can "gather the knowledge and skills they need to make healthy choices and support one another," in a welcome note, the app states it's not intended to replace medical or professional care. The non-profit organization that developed Selfsea has included a couple of notably admirable amenities, including the ability to essentially block content that might trigger you in some way by checking off terms such as eating disorders or abuse from a list. The first-person narrative videos and message board conversations help make the subject matter relatable -- and it's a more engaging way to absorb it than by just reading basic background information about identity and mental and physical health that teens could find elsewhere. As with any user-based community, there's always the chance you could receive a hurtful response or bad advice. But the app's posting guidelines outline several principles teens seem to take seriously -- such as not posting inappropriate comments, including "hurtful sarcasm," along with more overt statements like "that's dumb." Interactions within the app's communities are largely enthusiastic -- teens chime in to other teens' posts to offer empathy, constructive advice, and compliments. The app seems to still be building up an array of available content. It has only been in existence for 8-9 months, though, so more may be added in the future. But the curated content that is available to read or watch right now on Selfsea is generally positive, informative -- and worth checking out.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about some of the mental health challenges mentioned in Selfsea. What signs can indicate you may be struggling with anxiety or stress, for example?
Why is communicating your feelings and concerns important? How can that help you address anxiety and stress?
Can feelings change throughout the day? What scenarios make your child feel different kinds of emotions at various times?
- Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Mac, Android
- Pricing structure: Free
- Release date: February 19, 2023
- Category: Education
- Topics: Friendship, Great Boy Role Models, Great Girl Role Models, High School
- Publisher: Peer Health Exchange Inc
- Version: 1.2.12
- Minimum software requirements: Requires iOS 12.0 or later, macOS 11.0 or later and a Mac with an Apple M1 chip or later, or Android 5.0 and up.
- Last updated: February 24, 2023
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