Teen Girls Are Most At Risk of Social Media Induced Mental Health Issues. This App Wants To Change That

Kristin Snyder

Kristin Snyder is dot.LA's 2022/23 Editorial Fellow. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.

Teen Girls Are Most At Risk of Social Media Induced Mental Health Issues. This App Wants To Change That

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For Shawn Haydel, it took a heart to heart conversation with her daughter, Sienna Mason, to fully understand how hard it is to be a teenager these days. That was in the early days of the pandemic, when one in four adolescents reported experiencing syptoms of depression and one in five experienced anxiety symptoms. The situation has escalated since then, particularly for teen girls. Almost 60% reporting to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that they experience persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness.

With many people, including the Surgeon General, pointing fingers at social media, Haydel wanted to find a way to make technology a part of the solution. She says the internet is so ingrained in young people’s lives that, in order to actually reach teens, she had to meet them where they were: on their phones. Which is why Haydel launched the app BMOXI earlier this month. Dubbed “the self-care super-app for Gen Z,” BMOXI aims to prevent mental health disorders.

“We're not looking to treat mental health disorders,” Haydel says. “We’re really looking to help prevent mental health disorders by being a tool early on with common life problems before they turn into major life issues that are a lot harder to treat down the line.”

Haydel says the goal is to mimic the informal and intimate feel of social media without the negativity. Through the app, people can listen to short audio clips, called moxicasts and peptalkpods, for quick advice and confidence tips. The app sends users daily affirmation texts and also features an anonymous community forum for users to connect with each other. Additionally, BMOXI offers free mentorship and mindfulness tools, like mood trackers and guided journals.

“This age group are the true digital natives,” Haydel says. “In order for these tools to be effective, and desirable, for that matter, it would really have to be in some type of digital format.”

Behind all these features is a team of mental health professionals who guide the content. Haydel tapped Dr. Sharonne Herbert, a pediatric psychologist at Children’s Hospital of Orange County, and Lila Samia, a school psychologist in the Laguna Beach Unified School District, to ensure that BMOXI could offer effective guidance.

Even with the clinical background, Haydel insists that BMOXI had to still be relatable. Otherwise, its intended audience likely wouldn’t engage with the material. To acheive this, Haydel created an advisory board with five teenage girls, so that while the advice was coming from professionals, it felt as thoughto feel like it was coming from peers. Which is why Haydel leaned on her daughter for support. Mason was tasked with judging whether the suggested content, whether it was podcasts or mentorship, would actually be helpful to girls in her age range. From the music in the guided mediations to the language in scripts, Mason helped provide an authentic teen voice.

“I try to be as brutally honest as I can, just so we can get the right attention to detail,” Mason says.

To that end, BMOXI’s teen advisory board helps inform what topics BMOXI tackles. Those include social media pressure and relationship issues. The podcast scripts are also edited by Gen Z copyeditors who ensure that the tone feels right to their age range.

Mason was also adamant that they work with influencers. Next month, BMOXI will launch its own TikTok account and also begin partnering with influencers to help promote the app.

BMOXI, however, isn’t the only company trying to prevent mental health disorders by tapping influencers. Earlier this month, TikTok partnered with mental health influencers to help educate users about the topic and connect with advocates. Other social media platforms, like Snapchat, have also worked with influencers to spread awareness of mental health programs. Across the board, its evident that people wanting to reach young people and guide them through difficult periods know that teens are looking to influencers for guidance beyond typical lifestyle content.

Without Mason’s advice, Haydel says she wouldn’t have even considered how integral influencer marketing has become in reaching a young audience. “Our goal is for the girls to want to use the app,” Haydel says. “Not for their moms to tell them that they should use the app.”


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