New Australian first app focuses on a healthy emotional future for all children
Emerging Minds: National Workforce Centre for Child Mental Health has launched a free app called Child 360, in a bid to ensure that parents and educators are able to get best practice advice and support on how to protect and develop children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
The Australian first app has been developed using federal funding to provide “practical tools and a clear pathway for parents and educators to help identify and manage the mental health needs of children”.
“If we manage emotions and social interactions in children well we can teach them how to lead healthier emotional lives in adulthood,” Sydney-based GP and renowned medical academic, Dr Penny Burns said, adding “I wish I had had the Child360 app available when I was bringing up my young children.”
Emerging Minds Director Brad Morgan said the app was developed after recognising that all families face challenges that can impact children’s mental and emotional wellbeing and that it can be daunting for parents to know where to begin looking for help.
Likewise, when parents approach educators for advice and support, it can be difficult to know what to offer. Here, Mr Morgan said, the app can provide “a powerful starting point” for times when educators or families are feeling “confused or overwhelmed”.
“The Child360 app gives parents a simple, trustworthy, pro-active tool for taking stock of children’s social and emotional wellbeing,” Mr Morgan said.
In the testing phase, parents identified that the app was especially useful for younger children.
Queensland mother of four, Phoebe, said the app proved useful with her younger children because “it can be difficult to know when young children are struggling with mental or emotional issues because they don’t always have the words to express how they feel”.
“It can be hard to tell if they’re just having a bad day or if there is something else going on,but the app helps to make sense of the experiences or negative feelings the child could be having and the signs to look out for.”
In developing a confidential profile for each child, the app guides parents and educators through a series of questions about areas such as:
- parent-child relationships
- emotions and behaviour
- communication; and,
- support networks.
After answering the questions, parents select an area to work on and then choose from three levels of action, including:
- Accessing information through articles/videos/podcasts;
- Speaking to someone via an online or phone service; and,
- Making an appointment to see a GP or child and maternal health nurse.
Emerging Minds Workforce Development Officer Sophie Guy spoke exclusively with The Sector about the value of the app for those working in early childhood education and care settings.
When asked how ECEC settings might use the resource, aside from recommending it to families, Ms Guy said:
“I think ECEC settings can often be a place where issues present themselves, and Child360 has the potential to act as a ‘conversation starter’ in these situations.
“ECEC professionals and parents might be able to work through the app together and use the information and resources to identify strategies the parent could use to strengthen their children’s social and emotional wellbeing.
“Working through the questions takes five to ten minutes, and the app, currently only available in English, may be translated into multiple languages in future.”
Ms Guy was also asked about some of the common social and emotional markers which lead parents to seek additional support, and how can ECEC educators be supportive in this space?
“The app provides an opportunity for parents to reflect on their child’s social and emotional development. If parents have concerns about their child’s behaviour or development, they can use the app to connect with relevant resources that provide information about steps parents can take to address areas of concern. Parents are also encouraged to contact their GP or relevant health professionals when they are seeking further support. ECEC educators can support families by listening and remaining curious with a non-judgemental lens.”
Child360 was developed in partnership with parents, health professionals, researchers and parenting experts, and draws on evidence-based practices to guide parents towards credible, quality information that best suits their situation and their children’s needs.
Parents can download a letter from the app to take to their GP, with prompters to help with discussing areas of concern.
Dr Burns noted the potential of the app to support all children and parents to become more attuned to one another’s needs, saying “I’m pleased this app is available as an evidence-based guide for parents to identify what they’re doing well and what could be done better, so that issues are detected early and bigger problems are prevented from developing in the future.”
More information about Child360 is available here.