Most of us in this group are of an age where, if we have children, we can no longer tell them what to eat let alone whom to date.
However, if we’re concerned about our grown-up kids’ safety, or our own for that matter, whether we’re on the dating circuit or not, there are a bunch of new smart phone apps that help people swipe right without less worry. Relationships can be hard. These safety apps make it easier.
One Love My Plan App
This app caught my attention because it focuses on women who might be in abusive relationships. We learned from the #WhyIStayed hashtag campaign after the Ray Rice scandal that women remain in unhealthy relationships for a variety of reasons. Sometimes they’re scared. Sometimes their pastors convince them that “God hates divorce.” Sometimes they truly believe they love their partner. It’s a complex issue.
The One Love My Plan app was conceived by two individuals at Johns Hopkins University who were researchers of relationship violence. It is designed to help women and their friends first determine if a relationship is damaging. The app asks a series of questions, and the resulting score measures the level of potential violence. After the questionnaire, the app helps the user create an action plan based on suggested strategies. All information a user puts into the app is private and password protected. Still, the designers encourage users to uninstall when finished.
This app isn’t going to stop abuse, nor does it provide a true safety net. Women concerned about domestic abuse (physical or emotional) should have the telephone number of the National Domestic Violence Hotline easily accessible at all times: 1-800-799-SAFE. If a woman feels threatened she should immediately dial 911. Nevertheless the app creators believe that One Love My Plan may help raise awareness and increase reporting of domestic violence.
Platforms: iPhone, Android
Circle of 6 App
Originally designed for college students, Circle of 6 provides a safety net for absolutely anyone — a teenager who bikes to and from school or a 55-year-old woman out for a morning walk. This easy-to-use app has been a winner of the White House HHS “Apps Against Abuse” Technology Challenge. Former Vice-President Biden called it “a new line of defense against violence”. The U.S. Airforce advises its cadets to use this app. That’s quite a resumé.
Nonetheless, let me begin with a caveat: the app relies upon GPS, which isn’t always accurate. In most cases a call to 911 can bring help more quickly than a tap on this and other similar apps. Still, it’s always a good idea to have friends watching your back. And midlifers who want their children, or aging parents, to have a fallback system for shouting “help” can make sure they’re one of “the 6” in the circle.
The app is as simple as it sounds: after downloading, you select up to six of your contacts to be in your circle. Should you need assistance, you can choose from one of three icons, and a message is sent to your circle. Tap on the pin if you want someone to come and get you. That is where inaccurate GPS can impact effectiveness. The phone icon sends your circle a text that says,“Call and pretend you need me. I need an interruption.” (Actually, that is something we can probably all use at certain times. Insert smiley face.) The “chat” bubble icon sends a text saying, “I need to talk.”
I am in the circles of several friends. One of them lives in Europe, so I can’t quite go get her. But I can call (if we’re both on WiFi) and she can finesse an exit from a creepy date she’s set up on OK Cupid. Yes, this has really happened.
Platforms: iPhone, Android
These days it’s no problem getting around any unfamiliar city: we simply pull up Google Maps on our phones and we can get directions. Yes, that is great. But what if the route is taking you through a neighborhood that has a high crime rate or a place where a crime has just occurred? Even in our own backyards, so to speak, things happen.
SpotCrime+ provides a “crime map” that indicates recent robberies, shootings, assaults and so on in an area, and from that data you can gauge the safety or the place you’re planning to be. Crime data is provided by local police departments, sheriff’s offices, and news media. The app covers most of the US, UK, and some of Canada.
Although I have SpotCrime+ on my phone and have used it when I’m traveling to places I don’t know, I have two important misgivings about it. First, the app isn’t updated enough. If something happened last night, it’s a toss-up whether the app will include that data. Second, there’s a real potential for profiling and incorrect assumptions with this app, and a sudden spate of crime six months ago doesn’t mean the area is necessarily unsafe at this moment.
Several people I know rely on this app — especially those who arrange dates with someone they’ve met through an online dating service. So I’d say encourage people to use it so that they have one more piece of information that might help keep them safe in our crazy world.
Platforms: iPhone, Android
Is there an app that will keep you safe?
Carrying a smartphone can be a lifesaver. Having apps that give you options about how to guard your safety makes our smartphones even more valuable. It’s still good to remember, though, that the best advice for keeping ourselves and our loved ones safe in relationships is to always be vigilant and to use good judgment.