# What does Nika do?
Child and teen mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and self-harm have been rising rapidly over the last decade. As bad as the trend was, the COVID-19 global pandemic accelerated the trend in dramatic ways. For parents, knowing their child may be dealing with mental health issues is the first half of the battle. Knowing how to respond is the second. Nika addresses both.
Nika looks for signals that kids may be struggling with their mental health and wellbeing using science-based variables and algorithms - signals parents may miss or not know to look for. When we do find these sorts of signals, Nika lets parents know and also provides parents with recommendations and resources to make informed decisions about how best to support their child.
# How does Nika work?
Nika analyzes a child/teen/s text messages, social media activity, web searches, physical activity, and social activity to identify markers of existing and potential mental health challenges (the signals mentioned above), as well as positive signs related to kids building resilience. Nika uses machine learning, human experts, and proprietary algorithms that are based on more than 30 scientifically-validated variables to analyze the data. Parents are able to see how their child is trending over time on a variety of key factors, how their doing on overall wellbeing, and more.
# What makes Nika unique?
While there are plenty of parental control apps on the market (more on that below), there is nothing like Nika. Nika is designed specifically to identify potential mental and behavioral health issues from a child’s digital activity. Nika is based on science and developed by experts in Psychology, technology, Machine Learning, and Artificial Intelligence (opens new window). Likewise, the mental health experts review Nika’s findings to help provide accurate, useful information for parents.
Nika empowers parents to know when and how to help their child while respecting the child’s privacy. Parents cannot read all of their child’s social media posts and text messages, see every web page their child visits, nor explore all of their web searches.
In addition to looking for signals for potential challenges, Nika also looks for positive signals so parents can help their child develop resilience and ward off potential danger later. Nika even provides access to experts who can help parents understand what is happening and how best to help their child.
# Is Nika a parental control app?
No. Parental control apps often involve giving parents tools to spy on children, control access to apps and websites, and other forms of removing control from kids. We believe these types of apps reduce trust, may harm relationships, and have the potential to damage a child’s self esteem. Nika is designed to respect the child’s privacy, help parents know when/if their child may need extra support or help, and have positive effects on children and parents.
# Do I need to jailbreak or root my child’s phone?
No, you do not need to jailbreak or root your child's phone, iPad or other devices for Nika to work.
# How do you protect my child’s privacy?
We take privacy extremely seriously and use the latest technologies to ensure the privacy of every child and parent, including but not limited to the following:
- All physical servers, and web browsing sessions are encrypted to ensure protection from outside parties. Any data en-route to our servers is stored with a differentiated and out-of-band encryption key.
- All sessions are logged and monitored to prevent unauthorized access.
- We build on top of technologies provided by the world’s top experts including Google Cloud and Linode.
- We abide by COPPA, the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule that was developed by the FTC (see below for additional information).
# Why can’t I see all of my child’s content like text, social media posts, etc.?
Here are just a few of the many reasons why Nika does not allow parents to spy on their children and/or read of their messages:
- Trust - Trust is a precious commodity in any relationship, but especially so between parent and child. Nika was designed to respect (and hopefully build) that trust by observing, analyzing and making parents aware of trouble signs — without the parents seeing everything a child is communicating. This is vital, as your child will know that Nika is there only to help, and not to relay and repeat every word or action.
- Difference between science and opinion - Many parents believe they know what to look for and are able to spot the trouble signs. Although there may be some parents who can do this, the reality is most parents cannot, despite their best intentions. Research shows that some things (words, tone, etc.) that seem like obvious signs of danger are actually relatively benign; and some things that seem benign are actually associated with mental health issues and indicators of trouble. Nika uses science so parents aren’t left guessing.
- Children are prolific - It’s not uncommon for teens to send and receive hundreds of text messages per day, create dozens of social media posts, and send dozens of pictures. Even if parents do know what to look for, it’s virtually impossible to keep up with this on a 24x7x365 basis. And imagine what it’s like with 2, 3, or 4 kids?
# Does Nika diagnose mental health disorders like major depression and anxiety disorders?
No, Nika does not diagnose mental health disorders. Only licensed professionals should make diagnoses of depression, anxiety, and other mental health disorders.
# What is COPPA and does Nika abide by this rule?
COPPA is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Rule and was developed by the FTC. According to the FTC website (opens new window), “COPPA imposes certain requirements on operators of websites or online services directed to children under 13 years of age, and on operators of other websites or online services that have actual knowledge that they are collecting personal information online from a child under 13 years of age.” Nika takes this seriously and abides by it. You can read the full text of the COPPA rule here (opens new window).
# How much does Nika cost?
Nika is currently in the Beta Testing stage, during which we are not requiring parents to pay for the service. Additional pricing information will be provided when Nika moves from the current beta testing stage to general availability. With that said, we believe all families should have access to Nika so we plan to make it affordable to the widest audience possible.
# How do I get started?
At this time Nika is available by invite only. If you’d like to request an invite, please go to the homepage (opens new window) and enter your email address. Thank you for your interest and we’ll do our best to provide you access as soon as possible. Please note that during Beta Testing we only work with iPhone, iPads, and other Apple devices. We plan to add support for Android devices at a later stage.
# This is a really important mission. How can I help?
First, thank you for wanting to help. The challenges related to child and teen mental health issues are far too large for us to do on our own. We need all the help we can get. Here are a few things you can do to help:
- Signup, use Nika and give us feedback. As we continue to develop Nika we need to hear from you to know if we’re providing value and are on the right track.
- Let others know about Nika. If you have family, friends, and coworkers that may benefit from Nika, please tell them about us and urge them to request an invite.
- Know someone that you think we really should know? For example, someone who specializes in teen mental health issues or an amazing technologist that may be able to move Nika forward in a meaningful way? Please let us know.
- We’re very early in development and recognize we still have a lot to do. That said, if you think we need to add features, add resources to the Help section, or have other suggestions, please let us know.
# How can I give feedback, request feature additions/changes, or get technical support?
Please send feedback and suggestions to [email protected] We read and appreciate every message we get.
# Where can I get more information about depression, anxiety, self-harm, and suicide?
A great place to start is our blog, also know as the Resources section of the website (opens new window). Parents subscribed to Nika have access to even more information in The Help section.