Facing and experiencing crime as a South African is something almost everyone will deal with at least once in their lifetime. In fact, according to the latest crime statistics that were released by the South African Police Service (SAPS) in September 2018, an average of 56 crimes were committed per day. We know, it’s frightening to read that.
As a woman, young adult or parent, reading these stats could be even more scary – and that’s why we’ve taken the time to look at some the top safety apps you can download to your or your child’s smartphone that offer a number of services to make you just a little bit safer.
Which safety app is best for people who walk/exercise in their neighbourhood?
Many South Africans use walking and public transport as a way to get to work and back. Furthermore, South Africa is a country that enjoys exercising in the outdoors. So how can you keep yourself safe when it’s just you and a long, dark road ahead?
Made in South Africa, by South Africans: Namola
Namola is taking South Africa by storm with over 200,000 downloads and 10,000 app users receiving help in real-life incidents. Business Insider described that the app functions similarly to the 911 system in the USA without you having to make a phone call or use airtime.
After simply touching the “request assistance” icon which appears on your screen and picks up your exact location, an emergency message will be sent to a Namola call centre who will then, on your behalf, contact emergency services like the police or ambulance services. Business Insider also tested the response and within 30 seconds, a Namola consultant had responded.
The app also allows to save a number of contacts to it that can be sent an emergency alert. Download the app for free on Apple or Android or check out their website here.
But if the police don’t arrive, who can help you?
In 2016, Namola created a community watch initiative called Namola Watch that sees members of your community work together to keep your area safe, similar to an armed response company like ADT or Marshall. There are 282 community crime-fighting organisations signed up to the Namola Watch app in areas all over South Africa.
Which app is best for women?
Crime against women in South Africa is on the rise, which is why we wanted to look at which safety app is best for South African women.
MySOS South Africa
MySOS is one of the best locally-made emergency assistance apps that not only offers help in scary situations, but locates nearby services wherever you are. Split into three services, the app can be a little much as first, so here is the breakdown:
– mySOS Active My Emergency
This part of the app allows you to send an emergency alert for yourself or on behalf of a friend. You can choose the nature of your situation, ranging from “medical” to “fire” to “sea rescue”. This section also automatically notifies your pre-listed emergency contacts with your full name, location and phone number.
– mySOS Find Near Me
This part of the app helps you find hospitals, clinics, police stations, fire departments, vets and pharmacies closest to your current location.
– mySOS Track Me
Allows you to set a countdown timer that allows auto tracking for the duration of any outdoor event or journey including running, driving or even hiking. Once the timer runs out and is not cancelled, the app auto-notifies your registered emergency contacts on your behalf and provides them with your full name, location and phone number.
Check out their website or download it for FREE on Android or Apple.
Which app is best for parents with kids who have smartphones?
Some parents may feel strange about using an app for track their kids, but it is less invasive as one might think, especially if you use one of the below apps.
Live tracking with bSafe
bSafe has been downloaded over 1 million times in 123 countries and is one of the recommended apps for parents who have allowed their kids or teenagers the privilege of owning a smartphone. The live location of the app user (in this case, an adolescent or teenager) can be tracked by a parent or guardian. In other words, Mom and Dad will be able to watch you as you walk to school, run along the beach or go to the movies with friends – and let’s be honest, one can’t be too safe nowadays. The app user can load their parents’ phone numbers onto the app, and if they are ever in a scary situation, a distress message and a GPS location will be sent to them.
Download the app on Apple or Android for FREE!
Monitor online activity with Kaspersky SafeKids
Kaspersky SafeKids is one of the leading cybersecurity companies that acts as an all-in-one tracking and controlling tool for your kid’s smartphone. All you have to do is install the app on your child’s phone and you’ll be able to control it from a dedicated dashboard. This includes which apps and websites they can access and for how long. When you install the app, you will get to use a special pin, which is useful in securing the app from unauthorised access.
The premium version of the app, which costs R180 per annual subscription, lets you schedule screen time, receive notifications about suspicious activities and get summaries of what children search, see and share as well as creating GPS safe zones.
It’s free to download for Apple or Android, however, as mentioned above, it costs R180 per year, which is not a large price to pay for more security for your babies!
Which app is best for drawing attention to you in the fastest way?
In a scary situation that sees you being followed, harassed or mugged, it’s not like you can stop and ask the perpetrator to stop his crime for a few seconds so that you can send a text message and GPS location asking for help. In this instance, it can be helpful to have a siren or alarm that goes off to attract attention to you.
SOS Siren Emergency Alarm
This app functions exactly like the name suggests – like an extremely loud attention seeker. All you need to do is click one of the alarms ranging from “siren”, “scream” or “dog”, which will cause your phone to become a deafening siren to attract the attention you need to be helped.
If ringing the alarm is not what you need for your particular situation, you can also select the “SMS” icon, which automatically sends off a pre-saved text message to a configured phone number.
For iPhone users, there’s Emergency SOS
Apple included a key safety feature into iOS 11 in 2017 that makes sending an SOS even easier than opening up an app. It’s called Emergency SOS which turns your sleep/wake button on the right-hand side of your phone into an SOS feature. All you need to do is click it and one of the volume buttons on the left fives time in a row and emergency services will be called. But first, you need to set it up. Go to Settings > Emergency SOS > toggle ‘Auto Call’.
Apple as offers parental controls which can be set up on the family iPad, Mac or your child’s iPhone. These controls allow you to create a more PG device for the younger members of the family, including limiting features, apps and content by putting a password on it that’s unbeknownst to your little one. To enable this, go to Settings > General > Restrictions > toggle ‘Enable Restrictions’, then enter your secret password.
Android’s safety features focus on parental control too
Don’t worry, Google cares about your kid’s safety too! On an Android phone or tablet, you can create a “restricted profile” which allows you to set up a limited account for the tablet, one that prohibits access to certain apps, messages or wide open internet access. Here’s how to do it: Settings > Users > Add user or profile > Restricted profile > then tap the settings gear on the right > Give your profile a name (eg: My little one) > toggle off the apps you’d like to stop access to > Remember to select this profile before handing it to your child
All of the reviewed apps would be easy and helpful tools in any situation of panic. But it all depends on what you are looking for. We recommend mySOS for a number of reasons:
– it’s available on both the Google Play and the App Store
– It’s FREE!
– It’s made for the South African audience and geography
– It includes multiple services including an emergency alert system, the ability to locate nearby hospitals, police stations or clinics using your location, and a timing system that sends out a distress message to your emergency contacts if you have not returned home after a certain period of time
– mySOS has also just launched a wearable panic button that connects to your phone via Bluetooth, however, the only downfall is that is costs R499 for the panic button. Visit more here.