It’s absolutely mind blowing the amount of computing power that today’s phones contain. Not to mention that with these devices you can communicate with anyone in the world, and have a wealth of information at your fingertips. Many children have access to this technology, and there are apps that can help them conceal their activity on their phone.
Today, I’ll share the apps your kids may be using to hide messages, pictures, or browsing history from you, as well as how to tell whether they might be doing so:
Why Hide Something?
You may be thinking “Why hide anything at all when a strong password can even keep the FBI out of your phone!?”
That’s true to some extent. If a child were to put a passcode lock in place, it could definitely keep out a parent. However, that generally leads to a device getting taken away. Most parents that I know have a strong policy that they must know the password of any device or account that their child has. In this circumstance, it might be useful if you’re the child to have an app that wouldn’t raise any red flags.
What Should You Look For?
The largest culprit out there are a string of apps that are designed to look like calculators. It’s pretty clever because every phone has a calculator, and if you didn’t know what to look for odds are, you’d skip right over it and not think anything of it.
What’s even more incredible, though, is that these apps are actual working calculators for the most part. You can do basic calculations, so even if you were a bit suspicious about an app, it would totally check out. The only way that it would unlock would be if you typed the right sequence of keys. This would then unlock the app, giving access to pictures, videos, web browsers, secret notes, you name it!
Unfortunately, there’s no way to list all of the apps out there that do this because they come and go very quickly. What’s important are looking for the signs of an app like this.
What Are the Signs?
Here are some pro tips to help you spot a hidden app. If you walk into the room and you child puts their phone away quickly or hits the home button to exit an app, there’s a really easy way to see what exactly they were looking at. Once you have their phone unlocked and at the home screen, simply double tap (two fast presses) of the home button on an iPhone and you’ll see the last apps in use on the phone. From there you can pretty easily see whatever it was. On an Android phone you can go into “Settings” -> “More” -> “Application Manager” and you can see what apps are currently running.
The next thing you can do is to check out the data usage and storage of an app. For example, if you look at the calculator app that I mentioned before. If it’s storing a lot of videos and pictures, it will likely be much larger than your typical app. On an iPhone if you go into “Settings” -> “Storage & iCloud” -> “Manage Storage,” and you’ll see a list of every app on your phone and how much space it takes up on your phone. A calculator app shouldn’t be over 100 mb. This isn’t an exact number, but you’re looking for an app that would normally not need to store a lot of data being towards the top of the list.
If you’re on an Android phone you can do the same thing by going into “Settings” -> “Storage” -> “Apps” and taking a look at the list.
Lastly, I would recommend taking a hard look at this list and questioning what each app is. In this circumstance, Google is your friend, just take the name of the app in question and do a quick Google search to see what turns up.
What About Secret Messaging?
Kids having secret apps and web browsers probably isn’t OK by most parents. However, what’s even more dangerous are the slough of secret messaging apps that are out there. What makes these apps dangerous is what also makes them great tools for communication. Apps like SnapChat can delete images and videos after they’ve been seen. This makes it difficult to see who your child is communicating with. After all it may not be just text messaging, phone calls, and FaceTime. Kids are using Facebook messenger, HipChat, SnapChat, and Signal, and other apps to communicate with one another. This is where watching your child’s behavior is important and looking at recent apps could help you find the culprit app.
What Should You Do?
Honestly, kids are going to make mistakes. The important take away from this episode isn’t that your children get in trouble for having these apps, but rather the understanding of what having such a powerful tool means. Now I’m by no means a parenting expert (although the mighty mommy is), so that’s all I’m going to mention about this!
Be sure to check out all my earlier episodes at techtalker.quickanddirtytips.com. And if you have further questions about this podcast or want to make a suggestion for a future episode, post them on Facebook.com/QDTtechtalker.
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