The needle in the haystack: Identifying credible mobile health apps for pediatric populations during a pandemic and beyond

Alexandra M. Psihogios*, Colleen Stiles-Shields, Martha Neary

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Background The COVID-19 pandemic has ignited wider clinical adoption of digital health tools, including mobile health apps (mHealth apps), to address mental and behavioral health concerns at a distance. While mHealth apps offer many compelling benefits, identifying effective apps in the crowded and largely unregulated marketplace is laborious. Consumer demand and industry productivity are increasing, although research is slower, making it challenging for providers to determine the most credible and safe apps for patients in need. Objectives/Methods This commentary offers a practical, empirically guided framework and associated resources for selecting appropriate mHealth apps for pediatric populations during the pandemic and beyond. Results In the first stage, Narrow the target problem, end user, and contender apps. Beginning the search with continuously updated websites that contain expert app ratings can help expedite this process (e.g., Psyberguide). Second, Explore each contender app's: (a) scientific and theoretical support (e.g., are app components consistent with health behavior change theories?), (b) privacy policies, and (c) user experience (e.g., through crowdsourcing feedback about app usability and appeal via social media). Third, use clinical expertise and stakeholder feedback to Contextualize whether the selected app is a good fit for a particular patient and/or caregiver (e.g., by considering age, race/ethnicity, ability, gender, sexual orientation, technology access), including conducting a brief self-pilot of the app. Conclusion Youth are increasingly turning to technology for support, especially during the pandemic, and pediatric psychologists must be primed to recommend the most credible tools. We offer additional recommendations for rapidly disseminating evidence-based apps to the public.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1106-1113
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of pediatric psychology
Issue number10
StatePublished - 2021


  • Chronic illness
  • Computer applications/eHealth
  • Health behavior
  • Mental health
  • Professional
  • Training issues

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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