Crisis situations come in all shapes and sizes, and when you are not there with your kid to protect them these events can be equally terrifying. While the most important thing is staying safe, there's nothing wrong with being prepared and knowing the best way to navigate a bad situation. It's not always easy to remember the right thing to do in those situations even as adults, but if your son or daughter has their phone nearby they have access to a ton of things that can be both life-saving and eye-opening.

Here are a couple of simple ways you can teach your kids to use their phones effectively in these situations, to keep themselves and others safe.

Know who to contact first

First and foremost, your phone is a communication tool. If something terrible has happened around you and you notice it first, get somewhere safe and call 911. Give the operator as much information as possible, and do everything you can to follow their instructions. If you need to remain on the phone with the operator, leave the call app and text your family while the call is happening. Communicate with as many people in your immediate family as possible, but remember to give as much information as you can about what is happening around you.

If calling isn't an option, either due to noise or concern for your safety if you are speaking, don't hesitate to text. Whatever kind of message you can get out to your immediate family, do so. You may not be able to call 911, but there's a good chance they can. Regardless of how you are communicating, make sure you include:

  • A simple, direct description of what you think is happening.
  • Whether you are safe, and if you feel like you will continue to be safe.
  • If this event involves people with malicious intent and you have seen them, describe them.

A solid app for giving multiple family members some information immediately is Google's Trusted Contacts app. It lets you quickly share an "I'm OK" kind of message, and if your family members ping you first and you don't answer within a few minutes, the phone will share its location with only your family members.

It's also important for parents to do as much as possible to respond as frequently as possible, but not to demand responses. Do not try to call them, make sure they know to call you when they feel they are totally safe. Being calm and patient in this situation is impossible, but it's what your child needs right now. Use the information your child is providing you to communicate with the authorities. Ask simple questions, remind your child to give as much detail as possible to help you, but stay as calm as possible.

Apps to help in a crisis

You don't have to be constantly using your phone for it to be useful. There are some basic apps you can have installed on your phone to help you out no matter what.

  • Install a voice recorder app. Turn it on when something happens and put your phone back in your pocket.
  • Use an ICE app so someone can find you if your phone is left behind.
  • Download maps for your area so your phone has a map even if you can't connect to a network.

Your phone also has a few tricks baked in that will be useful:

  • Set your phone to power save mode when you are somewhere safe, so no matter what you've got some extra battery.
  • Remember most phones have a radio built in when you add headphones, but not every phone has an app built-in to use this feature.
  • Many USB-C phones and tablets can charge other electronics, so if you are with a group of people you can charge a single phone and keep it alive longer if necessary. Just make sure you have the right cable.

Using your camera in a crisis

If you feel compelled to record or broadcast what is happening around you, do it. Just make sure you are doing it as safely as possible. If you see something that you feel needs to be shared with as many people as possible, you absolutely have the tools to do so with your phone. Just make sure you are not endangering yourself or anyone else in the process.

  • Stay low, and don't move around too much. Try to record where you are, and nowhere else.
  • Stay quiet, and try to ensure others near you are doing the same. Don't draw any unnecessary attention to yourself.
  • Make sure you have included the appropriate information in the broadcast or video via text, so there's no confusion.
  • Make sure your volume is all the way down before you do anything.

Finally, don't try to install a new app right there. Use what you have, even if that's just the camera app. Recording video to publish later is a lot safer. If you already have a live streaming app installed, there's nothing wrong with using that instead of recording. Use what you are most comfortable with.

Stay safe, no matter what

Nobody wants to think about what they would do in a bad situation, but talking to your children about the right things to do will help prepare them for the worst. Even if this information never gets used, having it is better than not.

Stay safe, keep those around you safe, and remember your phone is an incredibly helpful tool if you know how to use it.