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Cape Town - A new phone app could be a lifesaver for many South African children, if only it was possible on feature phones and not just smartphones.

The free app, called Shake For Help, has been designed for Android smartphones to help a child who is under threat or being bullied and who needs immediate help.

“The app was designed to be extremely easy to use, even for young children,” says a spokesperson from BrilliSoft which launched the app.

“During the configuration process, the child can set the shake signature by shaking the device the way they would if they were in trouble and the app will look for this specific type of shake.”

If a matching shake is detected, Shake For Help will alert the child’s emergency contacts which could include parents, caregivers, older siblings, teachers, or friends. The app will also transmit the child’s exact location and other important information, which will only be seen by the child’s emergency contacts.

About 70 percent of South Africans use feature phones and only 30 percent smartphones, according to the Praekelt Foundation which develops mobile technology for people living in poverty.

Given the scourge of bullying in South Africa, the app might anyway prove popular among smartphones users.

In a survey released by research company Pondering Panda late last year, it was found that 52 percent of young people felt they had been bullied at school in South Africa.

The survey was conducted among 2 064 pupils aged 13-24, and also found 42 percent of respondents said the police should intervene to stop school bullies.

The three main forms of abuse included verbal, physical, and cyber-bullying.

Bullying also came under the international spotlight this weekend when a video of an eight-year-old girl in the US, describing how bullying at school had affected her, went viral on Facebook. - Cape Times