Smartphone App Teaches Teens About Healthy Relationships
td411 app to help teens avoid abusive relationships
This week, the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence is announcing a new way to teach teenagers about healthy relationships. As WNPR's Lucy Nalpathanchil reports, the message is coming right to a teen's cell phone.
There aren't many teenagers these days who don't have a cell phone. Smartphones like the Iphone and Droid are "the" phones to have because they allow teens to text messages, take pictures and videos, listen to music, surf the web and of course play a ton of cool games.
"I have a lot of games. My mom yells at me for having all the apps."
That's 19 year old Yanka Carrillo, a senior from Manchester High School.
"I have an android phone, I have the ATT Galaxy Captivate. I have my Pandora app for my music, I have Twitter of course, you know shout out to Twitter because it's awesome. Facebook, the regular stuff, and I have Angry Birds, that's a fun game!"
Carrillo's cell phone habits mirror most teens who are always using their phones. That’s why the Connecticut Coalition Against Domestic Violence thought of designing a smartphone app that could teach teens about dating, what makes a good relationship versus a bad one.
Spokeswoman for the Coalition, Linda Blozie says an app is a great way to reach teenagers.
"Really what we want to do is ultimately prevent anybody from finding themselves in a relationship where there's violence. And we realize we have to start out early. We don't want to wait until somebody becomes an adult, we want to educate people right up front."
A $45,000 state grant made up of stimulus funding was awarded to the Coalition to launch the app. It partnered with the Institute for Community Research in Hartford and the Center for Youth Leadership in Norwalk to organize focus groups at several high schools. The coalition says student input was important to make sure both the design and information would appeal to teens so they’d download the app and use it.
"What I like about the app is it's looks like a diary or journal."
That's 17 year old Simone Foster-Bey, a senior at Northwest Catholic High School in West Hartford. The app is called td411 which stands for teen dating information.
After the app is downloaded and launched from a phone’s home screen, five sections appear across the top, designed to look like colorful Post-It notes. There's also a message telling users the app is confidential and they can choose to put in a password to protect any info they submit.
Macklin Xu, Communications Coordinator for the Coalition took the students’ ideas and designed each section within the app.
“You go to the main page, it’s formatted in the style of a little notebook for students. There’s tabs, that say 'Ur relationship and U, Helpin U Out, Do Ur Part, and Interactive Fun'. And each of those have subsections, so for example under Ur Relationship and U. There’s Technology and U. So when you click on that it has videos and links.”
These allow teens to learn about the warning signs of abuse and direct them to organizations that can help them get out of a bad relationship. Teens can also send confidential emails to the Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
Foster-Bey says its information teens will want to read.
"You're realizing that 'my gosh, I'm not alone or I know that someone is not alone, people are going through this.' "
Ten percent of Connecticut teens say they have been physically abused by a boyfriend or girlfriend. It's a question that’s included in a school health survey conducted every two years by the state Department of Public Health. But teen dating violence isn’t just physical abuse. The same survey in 2009 found seventeen percent of teens who said they have been verbally abused by someone they’re dating.
It’s something Yanka Carillo can relate to. She was in an abusive relationship for six months.
Carillo says the app could have helped her because she, like many teens, don’t want to go to their parents or guidance counselors for help. She says she can't wait to tell people about td411.
"Especially the people I know who are in bad relationships. I'm going to pull them aside and let them know. "baby girl,you have an option, don't think you're alone. There's other ways to go about this.' And I'm going to put it on Twitter.”
Social media like Twitter is another way teens communicate with each other. And tweets about td411 can help developers reach teens across the country.
But getting the word out about the app could be challenging. Here in Connecticut, the coalition plans on visiting schools and telling teens about the app, the first of its kind that targets teens about healthy dating relationships. But td411 now joins thousands of apps that are available to download from either Itunes or the Droid market.
for WNPR, I'm Lucy Nalpathanchil
IT firm, Walker Systems Support in Farmington, helped the Coalition Against Domestic Violence get the app ready for the Iphone and Droid markets.