Life360 (opens in new tab) is one of the better personal safety apps because it's straightforward, works in Australia with local phone numbers, is available for iOS, Android as well as BlackBerry and doesn't try to sign you up to a monthly subscription service.
You, your friends or members of your family sign in to Life360 and it tracks each other's locations on a Google Map. This is useful if you want to ensure your children are where they say they are. You can set the app to alert you if the person you're monitoring leaves or arrives at a particular location, say, the school, the swimming pool or cinema. Life360 also lets you send distress notifications if you're in trouble. Hit the panic alert button and all your friends will receive an email, SMS or instant message with your distress message, with the location marked on the map.
For: iOS (opens in new tab) | Price: $1.99
While they can't actually test the alcoholic content of your breath, apps designed to prevent you from drink driving work in two main ways. First, they attempt to test how sober you are and are naff (we couldn't even finish some of the tests in one, despite being sober!), while the second requires you to keep track of what you're drinking. DrinkTracker is in the latter category — a brilliant app for the iPhone that lets you set up a profile that includes gender, age, height and weight, and it then calculates the impact of different types of drinks and amounts on your blood alcohol level. When you use the app you're constantly shocked at how easily you can go above the set blood alcohol limit. Although DrinkTracker is for iPhones, there are many similar apps for Android.
bSafe is another variation on the personal safety app (warning: there's lots of them). What sets this one apart, aside from the obvious distress button that sends your location to selected emergency contacts, is that it also comes with a fake call button in case you're getting unwanted attention in a social situation and need an excuse to get away. It comes with an automatic alarm timer, so if you don't check in by certain time, it will set off the alarm anyway, together with a record of your movement and location. This app was created by a Californian mother who won a business plan competition.
Click one of the app's four safety buttons and Eyewatch lets you choose emergency contacts or 'guardians' to which it sends not just your location, but also an audio clip and 20-second video of the situation. Your contacts get a link to the Eyewatch web site on which they can play the video and audio, and view photos from your last location. And finally (we didn't test this), the app claims that it can detect if you're in a car accident by using the phone's accelerometers, and will send an alert for that as well.
For: iOS (opens in new tab) | Price: Free, Pro US$4.99
If you're concerned about your teenagers not driving safely, then this app is a must for their Apple smartphone. It records acceleration, braking, cornering and speed through the iPhone's sensors and reports back if the parameters are broken, ie. the car is being driven dangerously. This app really is a lot of fun, particularly when, as the parent, you have to perform some acceleration and braking tests in the vehicle as the device calibrates itself, so it can then reliably send you reports of speed and G-forces experienced by the driver. In the free version of the app the report is stored on the device for later review, although the pro version can automatically text or email you if the car is being driven dangerously.