In an age where more young people are digitally connected to each other than ever before, a survey released by the World Health Organization in May 2014 found depression and loneliness to be the top causes of illness and disability in adolescents worldwide.
South Korean app developer, 46-year-old Jang Tae-gwan, has developed a smartphone tool that acts as an imaginary friend when teens feel they have no one to talk to.
The app allows lonely teens to customise a profile of the invisible pal, complete with photo. The ‘friend’ will provide more ‘human’ responses to confessions and problems than say, Apple’s Suri – voice software designed to help users access information.
Tae-gwan said his company has tracked four million downloads since its app launch, and that 70-80% of users are those in their teens.
“The app feels more realistic than a so-called ‘friend’ on Facebook,” said one user, who reported liking the long messages of consolation in response to the words ‘lonely’ or ‘depressed’.
Seoul National University’s Institute for Social Development and Policy Research recently ascertained that 58.2% of South Korean middle school students were insecure about friendships, and felt they were at risk of becoming social outcasts. South Korea’s Ministry of Gender Equality and Family has made similar discoveries, also noting that many South Korean teens felt stressed by schoolwork and the prospect of finding a job. The ministry found that suicide has become the number one cause of death among teenagers.
Category: Summer 2015