TalkLife

App review by
Dana Anderson, Common Sense Media
TalkLife App Poster Image
Instead of help, might find misery in mental health chat.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Handling stress by reaching out for support from others, empathy, perspective taking, honoring peer-support community, respect for others.

Ease of Play

Easy to use. Trigger settings easy to apply. Once email is verified, begin to post. Once posting for a while, users can message other users. 

Violence

Posts sometimes include topics such as self-harm, suicidal thoughts.

Sex

Posts sometimes include discussions about dating and troubled relationships/breakups.

Language

Swearing in some posts ("g-damn," "f--k," "s--t.")

Consumerism

In-app purchases: $5.99 to remove ads; $1.99 to boost post; $0.99 to be a "talk life supporter."

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Community members may discuss issues of addition and substance use.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that TalkLife is a peer-to-peer support app that's a "place to share how you're feeling with like-minded people." Users can post messages about what they're struggling with, and then others respond back with messages, or "support," "hugs," "OMG," or "hearts." Some messages ("I want to die, I'm sick of my life." "Feeling like putting a fork in the outlet.") may be disturbing to some users already struggling with mental health issues. Though messages around specific acts of self harm or suicide aren't technically allowed, some were observed during review. Users can place trigger warnings on messages about specific topics, such as self-harm, eating disorders, and suicidal thoughts; an extra step (swiping) is then required to see messages with content about those topics. You can also limit the message feed by age, topics, or "most recent." Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared. 

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What's it about?

To use TALKLIFE, read the introduction information, then sign up with Facebook, Google+, or email. Enter your gender and birth date. Choose if you're using the app to get help, give help, or both. Select any "trigger warning" themes (sexual, violence, self harm, dieting) that you want the app to filter. Filter your feed by age, topic, or "most recent" posts. Scroll through and read comments. Verify your email to comment or enter responses. Visit the Safety Centre to learn about how the volunteer Moderator system works and how to become a Buddy.  If you click on the I Need Help link in the Account section, there are help lines available for emergency intervention.

Is it any good?

The number of posts about deep and troubling feelings on this app outweigh the voices of support, and that imbalance damages the experience. Indeed, there's so much sadness on TalkLife ("I haven't been sleeping for weeks...," "I'm sick of being ugly," and a lot of posts about rocky romantic relationships and rejection) that even the messages that do lend support seem overshadowed by the general negative vibe on this app. Of course, part of the point is that people can share about difficult topics openly with people who can relate, but the misaligned ratio of sharing to support makes it feel more self-perpetuating and dark. Some people may feel relief just being able to share, so there's definitely potential worth for some, but since some people are coming from a very vulnerable and precarious place, it seems risky to have so little professional mental health oversight and intervention. Also, though people aren't supposed to describe specific suicide attempts or self harm, those types of posts existed at the time of review. And there was also a post about a woman being harassed and another about a user receiving unsolicited nude photos. Perhaps if the app offered some helpful ideas for coping, moderators moved conversations in a useful direction, and there was a bit more oversight around posts and harassment, TalkLife would be a more universally positive tool for peer-to-peer support. As it stands, it feels like there's a real risk of getting stuck in a mire of negativity.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the meaning and level of support from various sources. Talk about the difference between support from a mental health professional, from a person they know, or from a person online, such as those using TalkLife.  

  • Depending on your teen's mental health or emotional support needs, other apps may be a better fit. Read Common Sense Media's Apps to Help with Mental Health list for more options.

  • Talk about what it means to give positive online support. What are some supportive comments to offer someone who is struggling? What's not helpful? What sort of messages should prompt you to flag content or reach out to a trusted adult for help on how to respond? 

App details

For kids who love mental health apps and social networking

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