Gamefication helping disadvantaged young people

Boys and young men dominate the statistics over disadvantaged children and young people. Three out of four boys of abusive parents will for instance get drinking problems themselves. Furthermore, they are bad at seeking help, making these boys an especially vulnerable group. The organization TUBA has launched an online counseling site for boys - on the boys’ terms and in their own language.

Levels, coaches and assists are words never used on counseling sites before. These terms are normal in gaming - and sports, but now TUBA in cooperation with the Center for Digital Youth Care will use these words as a new method in order to offer counselling for teenage boys. The two organizations have developed “MitAssist” together with teenage boys who have provided input on how boys talk about their problems. Advice has become assists, advisors has become coaches and praise gives an upgrade to a new level.

“The challenge is that in Denmark we have so far been too poor at making offers that suit boys. We have therefore developed a counseling method via gamification and logics of the game world. This is carefully designed to attract boys and offer them the right help - before it's too late,” says Henrik Appel, director of TUBA.

Boys want specific advice

Working with this counseling concept, it has become evident that there is a big difference between girls and boys. The words that should attract young people for TUBA such as help, advice and support can seem decidedly deterrent to boys. “MitAssist” is therefore an unprecedented concept.

“Boys only constitute 20-30 % of users of online counseling, but nothing suggest that boys have fewer problems than girls. They just talk about them in a different way. It is precisely this boyish rhetoric and problem-solving strategy, which forms the concept of MitAssist,” says Camilla Rohde Jensen, TUBA, project manager for "MitAssist".

Fun and safe

Boys deal with problems at arm's length principle, and therefore they can talk on “MyAssist” about everything like six-packs or thoughts about leaving home. “MitAssist” are for boys who help each other. Professional counselors administer all of the counseling, but the concept is based on boys giving and taking assists from each other.

”It is incredibly difficult to break the negative social heritage without a helping hand. Especially if the problem-solving strategies from home are unhealthy. We have to pay particular attention to make sure that these boys seek help,” says Henrik Appel.

With support from VELUX FONDEN, TUBA and the Center for Digital Education have launched Denmark's first online counselling site based on masculine counseling methods. The counseling site targets disadvantaged boys aged from 14 to 19.  www.mitassist.dk

Facts

  • A boy with an alcoholic father will be three to four times more likely than others to develop a drinking problem
  • Only 20% - 30 % of users of online counseling services in Denmark are boys
  • Among the 35 to 54 year old men alcohol causes about a third of all deaths