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Healthy drinking app for uni students dubbed a 'nagging cyber parent'

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Students are saying that a government-backed app that sends text reminders throughout the night to manage their drinking habits will be ineffective.

The app was designed at Burnet Institute in Australia as a part of a major campaign by VicHealth to manage binge-drinking among university students. However, students have compared the app to a nagging cyber parent.

The app can be activated before the user goes out for the night and will ask questions, such as if the user has work the next day and what time they would like to get home. Users will then have to continue to complete surveys throughout the night about how intoxicated they feel and how much money they have spent so far.

Dr. Megan Lim, the designer of the app, has spoken about the intention of helping students develop healthier habits when it comes to drinking. She says it is not meant to tell students not to drink, but to provide a way for managing the drinking and preventing drunk driving.

However, Eadie Allen, a Law student from La Trobe University, claims that students will just simply ignore any reminders they receive. She stated: “Personally, when I go out drinking, I put my phone away and don’t look at my phone at all, particularly with an app or an SMS service.” She continued to say that the strong social culture around drinking will override any texts from the app.

Professor Kypros Kypri from the University of Newcastle, is in agreement with Allen, claiming: “The research evidence shows that the price, promotion and physical availability of alcohol are the more powerful drivers of drinking culture.”

Harry Greg, a welfare officer at the University of Sydney students’ representatives council, thinks the app is a “step in the right direction” and that the app will “partly work.” He also emphasised the importance of looking at the root of the issues, including how mental health can be “a driver for people to drink, and also an effect.”

The app will begin trials in 2018.

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