WATCH: Clare garda's idea aims to keep young ‘Appy and content

Nick Rabbitts

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Nick Rabbitts

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nick@limerickleader.ie

THE son of a well-known Limerick businessman is seeking to raise €75,000 for a potentially life-saving telephone app.

Former Villiers School student Robin Grace, a garda based in Clare, has launched an online fundraiser to develop his social network app.

Codenamed ME, the safety-first app aims to support young social media users by prompting them to connect to the people that care about them most in the time of need.

Robin, whose father Pat ran a hugely popular fast food restaurant in the 1980s, said the aim of the app is to provide a toolkit for youngsters to engage with if that experience difficulty online.

”We are trying to empower young people to make better decisions, to link in with family and friends and get the support they need to build up confidence and resilience. You don’t need 5,000 followers on Snapchat or Facebook or Instagram to keep us safe. All we really need is five good friends,” he added.

It will send prompts encouraging young people to connect with their real-life support network or an offline activity they enjoy.

Robin, a former youth worker, said: “We’re good at telling people not to go online. But young people want to be online and they need to be online. They need to be on social media. We can’t control the internet as much as we’d like to, and many are trying. When you can’t control a situation, you can’t control who is going to contact our young people, who is going to connect with you on social media. All you can do is learn how to respond to it.”

The garda, who is based in Kilrush, grew up in Ballina, and studied at St Michael’s National School in the city.

He’s also taken part in the Limerick Institute of Technology’s new frontiers programme, which is aimed at supporting the next generation of entrepreneurs.

Robin is seeking to raise €75,000, which he acknowledges sounds like a lot – but he wants to make sure there are no glitches in the app before it goes live.

“The app is at the early stage. I’ve put my own funds into it to get it to this point. To get it built out, I need to get it to €75,000. There would be no subscription fee, no download fee. But I’d need a runway of a year to maintain the app, which will be €500 a month. What I don’t want is for a young person using the platform and for something to go wrong, and me not to have the funds to fix it,” he explained.

Eventually, he hopes the app will pay for itself through companies and schools taking out subscriptions – but he maintains it will always be free at the point of use for youngsters.

The app had a positive response when Robin launched it at his alma mater – so much so, thousands of people had shared it by the same night.

For more information, and to invest, check out www.meapp.ie or https://www.kickstarter.com/ projects/robingrace/me-2

There are only 11 days until the fundraiser closes, so time is of the essence, with Robin saying if he does not get the €75,000 in place by then, the project will not be able to proceed. So far, almost €10,000 has been raised.