Menlo Park Mom Launching App to Help Boys, Parents Connect
A Menlo Park mother plans to launch a mobile app that uses artificial intelligence and a cartoon squirrel to help adolescent boys better communicate their emotional state with parents.
Patrina Mack, founder of the app called K’Bro — short for “Are you OK, bro?” — said the idea came to her when she was going through a tough divorce and observed how difficult it was for her young son.
The app functions as a platform game, a la Super Mario Bros., in which the user navigates a squirrel through obstacles to collect acorns to move up levels. It’s geared for boys between the ages of 12 and 19. In a sense, the game is a way to get boys comfortable with the other aspects of the app.
It also contains a tool for boys to assess their emotions, log and store private diary entries, share positive thoughts about themselves and discuss problems they’re having at home or school anonymously with peers. K’Bro, now in beta testing, is specifically aimed at boys undergoing challenges that may lead to depressive or even suicidal thoughts. According to a 2013 Centers for Disease Control report titled “Mental Health Surveillance Among Children,” between 13 and 20 percent of U.S. children experience a mental disorder in a given year and suicide was the second leading cause of death among kids aged 12-17 in 2010.
Mack said about 100 boys are using the beta version, which is helping her and her team refine the data before it goes live on the Google Play and iTunes App stores in March. By that time, parents of boys using the app will be able to purchase subscriptions allowing them to receive alerts when there is cause for concern, along with tips on how to talk with their child.
Anyone interested in joining the app’s beta test can do so at the K’Bro website (kbro.io)