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‘Grow It!’ app helps youngsters in corona times

Published: 25th May 2020 Last updated: 25th May 2020

Tilburg University and Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital have launched an app that supports young people during the corona crisis

Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital and Tilburg University have launched the ‘Grow It!’ app on May 11. This app gives young people aged 12 to 25 more insight into how they feel and provides them with a fun challenge every day to support them in these stressful corona times.

Vulnerable youngsters

Although primary schools opened their doors on May 11, secondary school pupils and higher education students are still at home. Many young people suffer from feelings of insecurity as a result of the corona crisis. They cannot go to school, must limit their contacts with peers, and stay in as much as possible. Most sports and hobby clubs are also still closed. Moreover, tensions may arise at home due to financial problems or uncertainty about the future impact of the corona crisis. All this makes young people in these times of crisis vulnerable to stress, social isolation, loneliness, anxiety, and depression.


With a view to getting insight into young people’s emotions and to help them cope with this unusual situation, the ‘Grow It!’ app was developed by a research team led by Professor Manon Hillegers, head of the Child and Youth Psychiatry/Psychology Department of the Erasmus MC-Sophia Children’s Hospital, in collaboration with Dr. Loes Keijsers of Tilburg University. Hillegers: “These are difficult times for adolescents. The normal structure is gone. Not everyone has a laptop at home to do school work. And contact with peers is important especially for young people. That is not possible at the moment. We are all familiar with media reports about youngsters who have disappeared under the radar. The Grow It! app can offer them some support.”


As far as we know, ‘Grow It!’ is the first gamified smartphone app in the Netherlands which specifically supports young people with feelings of anxiety, depression, loneliness, and stress during the corona crisis. Young people can download the free app on their smartphone, choose the name of an animal as a nickname, join a team, and play. Every day, at five random moments, they receive a short survey with questions about their sleep, exercise, emotions, social behavior, loneliness, and stress levels. They can also participate in challenges. For instance: bake or cook something nice for your neighbors or tell a friend what you like about them. These assignments stimulate young people to share feelings or undertake activities. The app simultaneously works as a kind of diary.

To begin with, the app has been offered from May 11 via collaboration with secondary education institutions in the Rotterdam Rijnmond region to young people aged 12 to 25 but, in principle, everyone can download the app and participate. The first objective is to recruit around 1,000 participants. 

See (in Dutch) for more information on the partners who developed the app and on the research.

The project is financially supported by the City of Rotterdam, the Friends of Sophia Foundation, and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research NWO.