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BACKGROUND: Use of personal sensing to predict mental health risk has sparked interest in adolescent psychiatry, offering a potential tool for targeted early intervention. OBJECTIVES: We investigated the preferences and values of UK adolescents with regard to use of digital sensing information, including social media and internet searching behaviour. We also investigated the impact of risk information on adolescents' self-understanding. METHODS: Following a Design Bioethics approach, we created and disseminated a purpose-built digital game ( that immersed the player-character in a fictional scenario in which they received a risk assessment for depression Data were collected through game choices across relevant scenarios, with decision-making supported through clickable information points. FINDINGS: The game was played by 7337 UK adolescents aged 16-18 years. Most participants were willing to personally communicate mental health risk information to their parents or best friend. The acceptability of school involvement in risk predictions based on digital traces was mixed, due mainly to privacy concerns. Most participants indicated that risk information could negatively impact their academic self-understanding. Participants overwhelmingly preferred individual face-to-face over digital options for support. CONCLUSIONS: The potential of digital phenotyping in supporting early intervention in mental health can only be fulfilled if data are collected, communicated and actioned in ways that are trustworthy, relevant and acceptable to young people. CLINICAL IMPLICATIONS: To minimise the risk of ethical harms in real-world applications of preventive psychiatric technologies, it is essential to investigate young people's values and preferences as part of design and implementation processes.

Original publication




Journal article


BMJ Ment Health

Publication Date





Child & adolescent psychiatry