By Rick Broida
October 29, 2014

Talk about a candy-crush saga: This Friday, the nation’s kids will take to the streets to collect a dentist’s ransom in sugary treats. It’s all good — if a little fattening — fun, but not without a few risks.

For example, some of those streets may be dark. Certain candies could be on the FDA’s recall list. And how well do you really know your neighbors, especially the ones a few blocks over? There might be houses on the route that are best avoided.

It’s okay to worry — that’s what parents do, after all — but if you’re armed with a smartphone, you can make Halloween a bit less of a fright-night. For starters, use the built-in flashlight app to help everyone navigate poorly lit sidewalks. Then fire up these five safety-minded apps. They’re all free and guaranteed to give you some added peace of mind.

1) Life360

Price: Free

So your kids want to go out on their own this year? Guess it had to happen sometime, but you’re still allowed to require one condition: a location-tracking app. Life360 lets you view your trick-or-treaters’ whereabouts on a map, and even create virtual fences so you know if they’ve roamed outside approved territory. The apps are free and available for all three major smartphone platforms: Android, iOS, and Windows Phone. Just make sure to get it installed and tested before Friday. Any last-minute delay in letting the kids hit the streets could impact your Almond Joy take.

2) Recalls (iOS) / Recall Watch (Android)

Price: Free

Though it’s unlikely that mountain of fun-size candy bars will cause any more harm than a stomachache, you never know when the Food and Drug Administration will report a contaminated this or tainted that. Before you let the kids tuck into their haul, take a quick peek at one of these FDA-recall apps to make sure there’s nothing candy-specific. And try to resist making one up. “Sorry, kids, looks like the Milky Ways have Mom-enella. I’ll have to confiscate them.”

3) Sex Offender Search (iOS) / Sex Offender Search (Android)

Price: Free

It’s not fun to think about who might be living just around the corner, but obviously parents should know if there’s a registered sex-offender on the trick-or-treating route. These eponymous apps come from different developers, but they accomplish the same core function: display a map of your area and the names and addresses of any residents listed on the National Sex Offender Registry. In most cases, you can even see the person’s mugshot and a summary of their charges.

4) FBI Child ID

Price: Free

It’s even less fun to think about the horrors of child abduction, but the truth is it happens — and the more information you can share with authorities, the better. The FBI’s Child ID app lets you create a complete identification record for each child: height, weight, date of birth, distinguishing features, and so on. A few taps is all it takes to call 911 and/or the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and then to transmit your child’s info if necessary. Here’s hoping you never have to use it.

5) American Red Cross First Aid

Price: Free

A trip around the block in the dark while wearing an ill-fitting mask? What could possibly go wrong? Most likely, a trip and fall resulting in a scraped knee or elbow. Worse still, a twisted ankle or broken wrist. And there’s always the risk of choking while scarfing caramels, to say nothing of the stomachache that can follow downing a pile of them. For treating these and other ailments, the Red Cross’ app provides information, illustrations, and in some cases instructional videos. Needless to say, it’s handy for the other 364 days of the year as well.

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