New year, new beginning: So why not start 2017 right when it comes to your knowing what apps your kids are actually using — including hidden apps as well. Here is a simple, step-by-step guide to finding out exactly what apps are on your child’s devices at any given time and to get real-time alerts any time they install a new one.
Step One: Know the Secret Apps
There are applications popping up every day that provide smartphone users the opportunity to hide things on their phone. Two of the most common types are password-protected and disguising apps.
- Password-Protected Apps — Vault, KeepSafe, and Best Secret Folder are some of the most popular password-protected apps available for iOS. While some of these apps serve a good purpose, like providing a password lock on sensitive information, a lot of them are used to hide things from parents. In addition to needing a password to get into a user’s phone, you then need an additional password to get into the contents of these apps. Users can put videos, photos, and even messages in these kinds of apps.
- Disguised Apps — Have you ever seen an app on your child’s phone and wondered “What does that do?” Maybe an app that advertises volume or brightness control, when these controls are right on your child’s phone? Chances are, these are apps disguised as other things. Hide It Pro and Secret Calculator are some of the most common because they look like inconspicuous apps but really house much more. In the case of Secret Calculator, the app actually stores photos and videos you don’t want mom and dad to see.
- Innocuous Sounding Folders — Title a folder “Health” or “Homework” and voila, suddenly its contents can seem far more innocent than they actually are. It may sound too obvious to be true, but some teens create misleading folder names to help hide apps they know mom and dad won’t like.
- Removing Apps from Screens — In addition to secret apps, there is a way to hide apps from showing on the screen. On the iPhone, teens can hide applications by going to Settings, then General, then Restrictions and checking off the apps they don’t want to show up on the screen.
Pro Tip: Forcefield monitors all app download activity on your child’s smartphone with its App Report feature. App Report captures information regarding which apps your children are installing and uninstalling and sends you a real-time notification any time a new app is installed.
Since the App Report links to the App Store, parents using Forcefield can easily discover more information about each app their child downloads. If you discover that your children have downloaded any of the apps mentioned above, it may be time to have a talk with them and ask them why they feel the need to hide things on their phones.
Step Two: Know the Warning Signs
Teens value (and need!) their privacy, so it can be hard to tell when a child is just being private, or if they are trying to hide something. But there are some red flags to look out for if you think your child is hiding secret material on their phone. Some of these include:
- Turning off the screen quickly and not allowing you to see what’s on it
- Refusing to provide passwords, both to their phone and the apps on their phone
- A spike in data usage or messaging rates. There will be influxes of usage throughout the payment cycle, but if one app that you don’t recognize is using the majority of your child’s data, this might be a secret app
- Lethargy during the day from lack of sleep, which could be the result of late-night app usage. App sleepers, like the one offered from Forcefield, can help with this.
Pro Tip: Check your child’s phone or App Report regularly. If you notice that they have no browser history or there are flagrant chunks missing from messaging conversations, you can probably assume they have taken steps to hide things from you.
Step Three: Talk to Your Child
Ultimately, the goal of discovering the material on your child’s phone isn’t to punish them or take away their privacy, but instead teach them good behavior and how to stay safe online. Often times, parents worry so much about their child’s behavior that they digitally ground them, don’t allow them to have any current technology, or ignore the problem altogether.
If you suspect that your child is participating in dangerous or inappropriate behavior, sit down with them and assess the situation. Having a healthy “tech talk” is just as important as having a healthy drug or sex talk; it reinforces what your child should and shouldn’t be doing and why. Finding these secret apps on your child’s phone may be scary, but it’s a great way to introduce the topic of appropriate smartphone use.
Pro Tip: At Forcefield, we believe that helping your children find the best apps and websites is as important as helping them avoid the worst and that teaching them good behavior goes much further than strict punishments and bans. We also offer affordable products to help parents monitor their child’s smartphone and Internet behavior, promoting digital mentorship rather than censorship.