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Smart phone apps for campus and beyond

As impossible as it seems, one day it’s true: those crazy preschoolers sprout into tall, beautiful, accomplished young people who go off into the world no longer holding Mom or Dad’s hand. With that independence comes a new set of worries for families—but also some new tools. Wherever a teenager or young adult goes, in most cases so goes his or her smartphone. Some new apps have emerged that can make it easier for teenagers and young adults (older folks, too) to stay safe as they venture forth, be it off to college or just out for a night on the town.

Some personal safety apps are offered both as a free version and a subscription service with enhanced features. Some allow the user to contact not only friends or family but also to send an emergency message to law enforcement.

Connecting with help fast

Some colleges and universities are partnering with vendors to offer free safety apps that allow a user to press one button to call university police or dial 911, or to silently text messages or photos to police in an emergency. With these apps police can access the smartphone’s GPS technology to find the location of the person sending the message.

Some apps have a timer function that allows users who are on foot (perhaps walking from the library to the dorm) or driving alone (perhaps from an off-campus job) to set a timer indicating when they expect to arrive at a safe destination. If the user doesn’t arrive when expected, the app sends an alert to the police and selected friends.

Other personal safety apps can be used in nonpolice emergencies to simply reach out to friends for help.  Some allow users to select a group of friends or family members who they can send a fast text message to, including a location if they need help getting home (maybe they’ve been separated from their friends), or are in an uncomfortable situation (such as a dangerous-feeling date) and want someone to interrupt it.

The best safety app is your own brain

As helpful as technology can be, personal safety apps get better when mixed with common sense:

  • Make sure your phone’s charged up enough to last through whatever activities you have planned for the evening.
  • When going out for the evening, stick close to trusted friends. Be  more careful if consuming alcohol.
  • Don’t walk alone late at night. If you accidentally end up on your own, avoid shadowy or isolated areas, and have a plan for what to do if you encounter trouble. Many colleges have a phone number students can call to request a safety escort across campus or from locations near school.
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