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First published Friday 22 June 2018.

Sun safety tool for teens

Dr Shelley Gorman is developing a prototype online tool to foster safe sun exposure practises in teenagers. Twelve and 13-year- olds will be recruited as ‘co-researchers' to help develop the tool as a new intervention to support teenagers to make better decisions around sun protection and sun exposure.

It's hoped this online tool will support young people to make more balanced and healthy decisions around their sun behaviours to reduce their risk of developing skin cancers in later life, and provide them with sufficient vitamin D for optimal bone health. The study is a collaboration with Cancer Council WA, The Australian National University and Curtin University and is funded by Healthway.

Recruitment for this study is now open.

Online game to reduce mental health issues for trans youth

Giorgetta Family Fellow Dr Yael Perry and her team will tailor the Auckland-based online interactive game SPARX for trans youth to help prevent the onset of depression. The innovative online fantasy-based game, allows players to select and personalise an avatar that represents them.

The game is based on cognitive behavioural therapy and teaches skills focused on keeping active, learning how to identify unhelpful thoughts, and assertiveness. The study is funded by Healthway.

CyFi Space

Dr Cindy Branch-Smith, Ms Bec Nguyen, Dr Jacinta Francis and Professor Donna Cross have developed a smartphone app designed to break down the social isolation of young people battling the most common life- shortening disease in children, cystic fibrosis (CF). Due to the threat of cross infection, young people with CF are unable to meet others with CF in-person.

CyFi Space allows users to keep socially connected to their peers and aims to improve their mental health and wellbeing. Alvi, their virtual avatar buddy, will encourage the user to manage their CF through medication reminders, and provide uplifting and entertaining videos, wellness tips and support services when feeling down. The app could be used in the future for diseases like diabetes, cancer and other chronic conditions.

App-based game, TOBY, to help children with autism

Dr Gail Alvares and Professor Andrew Whitehouse have been testing the Therapy Outcomes By You (TOBY) iPad app and have shown that while iPad-based apps are not a replacement for traditional therapy, they may be a cost effective addition to therapist- delivered intervention.

Children with autism who used the app over a six-month period alongside their usual therapy were found to have greater improvements in several areas of development compared with the children who received therapy as usual. The areas of improvement included simple problem solving, fine motor skills and the understanding of words.

TOBY was developed by a multidisciplinary team of researchers from Deakin and Curtin universities, Autism West and specialist psychologists and speech pathologists, led by Alfred Deakin Professor Svetha Venkatesh.

Image Up

Image Up is a social media image sharing app developed by the Institute's Cyber Savvy team and co-designed by Cyber Leaders (more than 70 students from across Perth schools) that aims to assist users in making safe decisions when sharing images. Image Up allows you to post simultaneously to Instagram, Twitter and Facebook at the push of a button, then manages and orders your images, giving you instant feedback such as likes and tweets.

Other than the ability to share images to multiple social media accounts, the app includes a unique feature in the form of 10-15 second targeted videos about image sharing, which encourages users to consider and/or rethink (pause for thought) whether the image being posted is appropriate.

Diabetes and exercise

Exercise is crucial to type 1 diabetes management but it can also impact on blood glucose levels if not done safely — a risk which often stops people with the condition from being active. To combat this, researchers from the Institute's Children's Diabetes Centre, with input from young people with type 1 diabetes, are developing a new exercise guidelines app to help reduce hypoglycaemia risk and increase safe exercise practices.

Researcher Vinutha Shetty said technology was a huge part of young people's lives so it was natural that this age group would choose technology (app) to help manage physical activity and diabetes. The app will be developed once the new exercise guidelines are finalised.

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