Going to college for the first time can be exhilarating and scary. If you are moving to an urban area, you may be surrounded by people, both students and strangers, at all times of the day and night. On a rural campus, you may be the only one out after 10:00 p.m. Regardless of whether you’re surrounded by people or by empty sidewalks, walking safely, particularly when it’s dark, you’re alone, or you're intoxicated, should be a top priority. This is true whether you’re a freshman or senior, regardless of your gender, size, and what you’re wearing.
The following list is composed of free phone apps that are available for students and were developed with the idea of personal safety in mind. Student Caffé does not endorse one of these apps any more than the others but instead aims to provide you with a list of free options. There are other safety apps for students and individual users that require purchasing. You should choose whichever app or apps best fit(s) your needs.
- bSafe: bSafe lets users program in a network of friends and family who can then be updated when the user is alone. The app lets users share their locations, lets their networks remotely “walk them home,” can sound an alarm if users have not been in contact by a certain time, and will alert the network if users are in trouble. bSafe is available for iOS and Android.
- Bugle: Bugle lets users check into activities and locations at given times. Users can say that they will be “out on a blind date” until a certain time, at which point they must check in. If they don’t check in, alerts are sent to their programmed networks. Bugle does not have GPS capabilities and will not notify emergency services if a user misses a check-in time. The alerted network members must be the ones to take further action, if necessary. Bugle is available for iOS.
- Circle of 6: Circle of 6 allows users to pick six friends who are going to form their “circles.” Once the circle has been selected, users can alert their friends of their locations if they need a ride home or a companion to walk with, ask for an interruption in the form of a phone call, or notify close friends if they just need to talk. The app also has direct links to national hotlines in case the user needs to talk to a specialist. Circle of 6 is available for iOS and Android.
- EmergenSee: EmergenSee transmits live video and audio to a programmed network of friends and family during a confrontation, allowing them to see what is happening and provide personal help, since the app also sends the user’s GPS location to the network. Audio and video files are saved for later use. EmergenSee is also equipped with a timer and alert system if the timer is not deactivated by the user. Emergensee is available for iOS and Android.
- Kitestring: For students who do not have a smartphone, Kitestring offers a check-in and emergency notification system all through text messaging. Users can text Kitestring to select a period of time after which they want to be checked on. Kitestring will text them back after the time has elapsed, and users can then let Kitestring know that they are safe. In the case of no response, Kitestring will text the user’s emergency contacts.
- OnWatch: OnWatch allows users to program in a set of friends, but it can also connect the user to 9-1-1 or campus police if the situation escalates. Users can let their friends know that they need help or alert the police that there is an emergency (doing this will also send a message to friends). If the user is going out alone, there is also the ability to set a timer. If the user doesn’t respond when the timer sounds, an alert will be sent to friends. The app includes GPS tracking and will send a location with all alerts. OnWatch is available for iOS and Android.
- Rave Guardian: Rave Guardian can be used by anyone, but there are certain college campuses that have custom agreements with the company as well. Normal users can create a network of friends and family as well as a detailed profile about themselves (including medical information that would be important for first responders). The app lets users set timers, share their locations, and directly call law enforcement. At participating colleges, there is also a tip line that goes directly to the campus police force. Rave Guardian is available for iOS and Android.
- SafeTrek: SafeTrek is different from other safety apps. Instead of notifying your chosen network of your location and situation, SafeTrek is only interested in contacting local police. The app allows users to hold their thumb on the screen when they are feeling unsafe or walking alone, and then when they reach safety, users release their thumb and enter a code. If they are in an unsafe situation, users simple let go of the screen and do not enter their code. Local authorities will automatically be given the user’s location. SafeTrek is available for iOS and Android.
- TapShield: TapShield allows users to be walked home by their friends and family via real-time GPS data, but it also provides so much more. TapShield shows real-time crime data for the user’s area and allows users to submit tips to local law enforcement. The app also recognizes when a user’s headphones have been pulled out of his or her ears (automatically alerting the authorities) and integrates a panic button for emergencies. TapShield is available for iOS and Android.
Everyone has heard horror stories about women who try to walk home alone from a party and never make it, or students who go missing while they’re traveling. The media may sensationalize some of these stories, but it can happen to anyone. Having an app on your phone that will notify friends and family when something goes wrong is the first step toward your personal safety. And some of the best apps for walking alone are free, so no excuses!