Randy Schwab, CEO of JBBBSLA, says “Teen Talk has allowed our agency to expand its reach in the most innovative way. For the first time, teens can access real time social/emotional help when and where they need it, right in the palm of their hand.”
Created in partnership with Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) and Teen Line, Teen Talk is an innovative app where teens seek support anonymously from trained peers. Through the app, thousands of teens from around the world receive compassionate support and inspiration from trained teen advisors. The app was launched in May 2018 and has since had over 14,000 active users. Teen Talk is an outlet for teens in crisis who can discuss a wide range of serious topics such as bullying, sexuality, self-harm, assault, and relationships, in a safe and healthy community. For teens who have little parental involvement, who suffer from isolation and social awkwardness, who feel like they have nowhere else to turn, Teen Talk offers a crucial safety net where they feel heard without judgement.
Teens today are living in a very different world compared to teens who grew up even a decade ago. In an article about teen depression and anxiety, TIME magazine reported that teens today are “the post-9/11 generation, raised in an era of economic and national insecurity. They’ve never known a time when terrorism and school shootings weren’t the norm. They grew up watching their parents weather a severe recession, and perhaps most important, they hit puberty at a time when technology and social media were transforming society.” As one of the teens profiled in this article explains, “We’re the first generation that cannot escape our problems at all. We’re all like little volcanoes. We’re getting this constant pressure, from our phones, from our relationships, from the way things are today.”
Teens in crisis often turn to their peers for help, rather than parents or teachers. Whether they receive healthy advice largely depends on the maturity of their peers. Teen Talk is the only app that uses trained teens to respond to other teens seeking support. Teen Talk advisors complete a rigorous 50-hour live training in partnership with Teen Line, a Los Angeles youth services organization based out of Cedars Sinai Hospital. Once training is completed, teen advisors complete 2-hour shifts on the app providing support remotely via iPhones. Advisors are supervised by mental health professionals who monitor posts and responses.
The app has had a rapid growth rate since its launch last year. There are currently 60 teen advisors, 14,000 downloads, and 10,000 posts asking for social/emotional support. By the end of this year, it is projected that 20,000 additional teens will download the app and there will be 10,000 additional posts for social/emotional support. Over the next three years JBBBSLA anticipates a total of 100,000 downloads, 50,000 posts, and a pool of 260 trained teen advisors.
Jewish Big Brothers Big Sisters of Los Angeles (JBBBSLA) provides mentoring, camp, college guidance, and scholarship programs to youth in Los Angeles County. The focus of JBBBSLA’s programs is to provide vulnerable youth with positive role models. The agency has over 100 years of expertise in helping children succeed. Teen Line operates a teen-to-teen hotline and provides community outreach to teens in need.