We are often asked to recommend apps to help children manage stress or overcome social difficulties. Here are three apps that kids seem to love and that have some fun and inventive ways of helping them cope!
1) Smiling Mind
Smiling Mind can be used on iPhone, iPad or a regular computer. It involves a series of short exercises, which guide children through breathing and becoming aware of their bodies to “put a smile on their mind”. It is based on the principle of “Mindfulness” – that is, being aware of taste, touch, sight and smell to be “in the moment” and truly achieve a sense of calm and perspective.
What I like:
- Tailored for different age-groups; 7–11, 12–15, 16–22 and adults.
- The participant is asked to rate themselves on five different scales before they begin and also at the end. These are:
Tuned out–Tuned in
- Each age group can work their way through a series of different exercises. For example, there are eight exercises for 7–11 year-olds, and ten exercises for 12–15 year-olds.
- Each exercise works on a different aspect of mindfulness, such as breathing, exploring taste or exploring sound. There is no need to work through the exercises in a particular order.
- It is Australian and has a calming Australian voice that can be less distracting for Aussie kids than other programs with different accents.
- It is free!
What I don’t like:
2) Conversation Builder
Conversation Builder can be used on an iPhone or iPad. It is particularly useful for shy children or for children who have difficulty with social skills. It is most appropriate for primary-school age children. The idea is that the child is shown a scene and asked to choose from a number of multiple choice sentences to determine the most appropriate thing to say in the given situation.
What I like:
- Lots of options to choose from. The child can select conversations in which they are the initiator or conversations in which a peer is the initiator. They can also select how many exchanges will occur in the conversation. For example, four exchanges in a conversation would mean that the child says something, the other person responds, the child says something back and then the other person responds again.
- The program gives them feedback about their choice. For example, if the child chooses to say a statement where a question is more appropriate, the program will explain this.
- The child can actually record the sentence they have chosen as a response. They can press the record button after each of their exchanges, and then listen to what the other person would say in response. At the end, they can listen to the whole conversation from start to finish.
- Kids love it!
What I don’t like:
- There is some cost involved. $20.99 was the most recently listed price.
- Some Aussie kids may find the American accent a little funny (and some have been known to adopt an American accent when using it!). This also means that the spelling is US English.
- Depending on the conversation, there is some reliance on reading so younger kids or kids who are struggling to read may find it difficult.
3) My DPS (Digital Problem Solver)
My DPS can be used on an iPhone, iPod touch or iPad. It is designed to help children identify emotions and coping strategies in a very simple, easy-to-follow way. Although too simplistic for high school students, it can be a useful reminder for primary school children who may need help remembering strategies for dealing with anxiety, sadness, or anger.
What I like:
- Very easy-to-use and with minimal language requirements.
- There are large easily-interpretable pictures to help children identify their emotions.
- The app also includes positive emotions and congratulates children for being happy!
- Once the child has selected how they are feeling, there are several strategies suggested to help them cope. For example, “Take a Break to Calm Down” or “Take Five Deep Breaths”.
- You can add your own coping strategies. Children are encouraged to take photos of themselves coping in different ways and build up a bank of problem-solving techniques.
- It costs less than $1.00.
What i don’t like:
- It is very simplistic and only suitable for younger children.
I hope you enjoy playing around with these apps and introducing them to your children. Kids love technology and it is important to realise that they can use it to assist with their mental health as well as for fun and recreation.
What do you think of these apps? Can you recommend any others? Please leave your feedback in the comments below.