Growing Concerns over Student Mental Health Statistics
The numbers don’t lie: mental health is a growing concern among students. For example, a CDC report on the well-being of high schoolers in the US revealed that 29% had mental health troubles. Furthermore, 22% of them suffered from suicidal thoughts.
College students aren’t faring well, either. They struggle with anxiety, depression, loneliness, and heavy academic workload. Some live far away from their families and work stressful jobs to meet their needs.
Unfortunately, schools cannot keep up with the rising demand (and necessity) for counseling and other mental health services.
As such, more and more students are turning to mental health apps, yet these pose some risks.
A Digital Salve for Today’s Learners
Students who otherwise want to seek professional help sometimes don’t reach out of nervousness and the possibility of expensive fees. In contrast, apps for mindfulness and mood-tracking are either free or relatively affordable. Plus, they offer students a convenient way to understand and address their feelings on any given day.
Such apps are perfect for students born in the information age. Their familiarity with smartphones and tablets makes downloading apps for mental health a no-brainer. Students feel at ease with online tools; they are no longer limited to face-to-face mental health services. After all, sharing personal and sensitive issues with a stranger can be stressful in itself.
More educational institutions have acknowledged the benefits of digital mental health solutions and are encouraging undergraduates to use them.
In 2020, over 150 campuses gave first-year students access to Therapy Assistance Online (TAO), while 55 others utilized the You At College app. The apps help students with mental health dilemmas and the school counselors if they can’t accommodate them all.
The Hidden Cost of Convenience
Despite their laudable intentions and ease of use, mental health apps aren’t perfect. One alarming yet oft-ignored problem is that they expose students to varying degrees of privacy and security risks.
Like social media apps, mental health apps record contact information and other biographical details. Yet the latter become more lucrative targets for hackers and other ill-intentioned entities because they also request sensitive health data from users. Seemingly mundane details such as daily eating, exercise, and sleeping habits can help form a profile of each individual, which is valuable for targeted marketing.
A few key factors greatly influence the cybersecurity risk level of mental health apps for students using them.
Endorsement from institutions
It isn’t inherently wrong for schools to recommend that students use an app or online platform for their mental health needs. This goes for any app, whether it’s used by millions of people on the App Store or exclusive to students and developed by their university.
Students might think less of an app’s flaws if their school gives it its stamp of approval. It will legitimize the app in their eyes, making it easier for them to tick all the boxes about user data collection and privacy policies without a second thought.
Consideration of security and privacy among users
Similar to the case with internet users, some app users lack sufficient information about cybersecurity issues.
Yet students today have the biggest number of digital natives compared to previous generations. Thus, many know the risks involved but are willing to take them. It’s not unusual for internet-savvy folks to regard privacy flaws as an ‘acceptable’ tradeoff for using apps for free or maximizing more of their features.
Transparency and security measures of app developers
In May 2023, researchers revealed that only two of the 32 mental health apps they checked passed their review focusing on privacy and security. Additionally, 17 apps included in their 2022 list either worsened or didn’t improve at all.
Better Well-Being and Digital Safety
Users can only do so much when developers don’t exert more effort to improve their apps. Nonetheless, students should remain vigilant and keep key cybersecurity tips in mind. For example: Read privacy policies and permission requests carefully. Apps often ask for user data that they do not need to function properly.
Also, a virtual private network (VPN)—at least from reputable service providers like NordVPN—is an effective answer to pesky user behavior tracking by mental health apps. It creates a highly secure connection to hide a user’s online activities and IP address from prying eyes. The NordVPN login and sign-up process is pretty straightforward, enabling students to quickly get their own VPN and fend off trackers with a press of a button.
Likewise, students should check the latest reviews of any app they want to install. They should also check their devices for built-in privacy settings that manage app permissions.
Though not without flaws, mental health apps are a welcome addition to services meant to monitor and improve people’s well-being. And as long as students are proactive about their privacy and safety online, they can reap the benefits while minimizing the risks.
You may also like to read:
TheApkNews.Shop – Why is the Health & News Magazine Down?
Dad and Buried The Anti-Parent Parenting Blog | 10 Lessons for Parents