Technology Tuesday: The Companion App

An App for College Kids…or anyone who might need someone to walk them home...

Over the past month, I’ve seen countless photos on social media of friends dropping their college freshmen off—in cities faraway surrounded by people they hardly know.  I am sure every parent drives off those campuses filled to the brim with lots of hope, and more than a little fear.  

College students are still finishing out their adolescence.  They are still entrenched in what psychologists refer to as a “personal fable.”  You remember it.  That will never happen to me.  Other kids have car accidents when they drive too fast.  Other kids on other campuses have things slipped in their drinks, but it wouldn’t happen to me.  Nothing will happen if I…It’s no big deal.  

I hear this type of thinking daily in my counseling offices, from high school and college students alike.  And so they ride with kids they don’t know well.  They walk places alone.  They take risks they shouldn’t—without really even considering them risks.  And I’ve heard way too many stories of situations when the personal fable shatters.  Out of concern (and maybe a little protection) of those friends dropping off kids, I won’t recount the horror stories now.  But, suffice it to say, they’re there—on every college campus—in every city in the country.

Thankfully, there were five students at the University of Michigan who must have been thinking beyond their own personal fables.  They developed an app called The Companion app.  It allows friends to virtually walk you or your child home at night.  

The app user sends out requests to several phone contacts.  These contacts receive a text that sends them to a web page with an interactive map showing the user walking to their destination.  The app detects if the user strays off their path, is pushed, falls, starts running, or even has their headphones yanked out of their phone.  The app then asks the user if they’re okay.  The user has to push a button verifying their safety within 15 seconds.  If they don’t push the button, the phone becomes a personal alarm projecting loud noises and gives you the option to call the police.

If you have a child who is mature enough to walk somewhere alone, and possibly immature enough to still believe the personal fable, share this information with them.  Share it with your friends who have kids the same age.  Talk to your children about the personal fable.  As a side note, we also believe every child should take a self-defense class at some point so that they feel empowered to know how to handle an emergency situation.  Call your local police department for more information on classes.  For more information on this app, click here.

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