A Clare Garda is bidding to raise €75,000 so that he can launch an app that will ‘empower young people to make better decisions online’.
Robin Grace this week started a kickstarter campaign to go about raising necessary funds to develop his social networking app, ME. Should the fundraising appeal, he plans to have the app available this year. Safety first is the principle of the app which supports young people by prompting them to connect with the people that care most about them in their time of need.
Running until January 17th, the crowdfunder has the aim of bringing in €75,000 to fund the building of the app. He has been working on the concept for the past eighteen months and has been accepted onto New Frontiers, a development programme for national entrepreneurs.
From Ballina/Killaloe Robin has become acutely aware of social media’s risks, dangers and negative impact during his four years as a member of An Garda Síochána. He described the technology as “a toolkit for young people to engage with if they experience difficulty online”.
Grace said it will look and feel like any other social media platform but use a simple four-step strategy akin to the safe cross code. This will provide support, encourage users to take a break, connect the young person to a supportive figure in their personal network and build the user’s confidence and resilience. Artificial intelligence will better respond how the user interacts with the app.
“While the internet offers lots of positive opportunities for young people when it comes to creativity and education, the reality is the internet is, for the most part, an unregulated environment that poses certain risks for the vulnerable demographic of young people in Ireland. Instead of trying to control the internet, teaching young people to make better decisions online is the long-term solution.
“Young people will take risks, and they will find themselves in crisis, but the crisis can be lessened when the person knows how and where to get support. The ME App will empower young people to become better decision makers while at the same time give parents the peace of mind that their children will be safe online,” the Kilmaley resident told The Clare Echo.
68 percent of eight to thirteen year olds have their own smartphone according to Cybersafe Ireland and 70 percent of this bracket are using social media. 62 percent of teachers are dealing with social media related incidents such as cyber bullying, self-esteem issues and exhaustion in the classroom.
Findings from the My World Survey carried out in 2019 revealed that 41 percent of young people thought about taking their own life, 23 percent admitted to hurting themselves.
Not alone has the Kilrush Garda first hand experience of dealing with young people’s struggles with social media. “I was called to a young person’s house where they were being abused through social media, when I got there I could see on the screen that the young person had received over 70 abusive messages in a twenty minute period”.
He has supported people when they have been suicidal but also has personal experience of being suicidal. “There was a time in my life when I reached a crisis level and I wanted to take my own life. I didn’t know it but at 22 I had my first flashback of a time when I was abused as a child and before that I had no concept of what had happened. Sadly abuse comes in many forms as I’ve seen all too frequently”.
“What I have learned is that when I listen to somebody suffering and understand what they need, it always becomes evident that they don’t want to be on their own and that they want the pain to stop. This resonates with me because when I was suicidal, I felt the same and I reached out to friends and family and what they taught me was that the world is a better place with me in it. This is the mission of the ME App, to bring that message to every young person”.
To donate to The ME App Kickstarter visit www.kickstarter.com/projects/robingrace/me-2 For more information on the ME app, visit meapp.ie.