There’s a Sneaky App for That: Parent App Alert

Spying Turquoise, image by JD Hancock. CC [Perry the Platypus from Phineas and Ferb]

Spying Turquoise, image by JD Hancock. CC  [Perry the Platypus, secret agent from Phineas & Ferb]

There’s an app for almost everything—even crazy things. Don’t believe me? How about these:

  • Is your cat bored? Games for Cats is the first inter-species entertainment app.
  • At a concert and forgot your lighter? Raise your smartphone instead. Multicolour Concert Lighter lets you join the swaying throng with an image of a Zippo with a flickering flame.

What if you want to hide something on your iPad? Dodgy websites? Incriminating pictures? Pornography? Cheat-sheets? There’s an app for that too—a whole slew of them in fact, and lots of them are free. Apple and Android, take your pick.

Parent App Alert: Sneakiness With a Techno-Twist

Your teen’s squeaky-clean iPad might be hiding some dirty secrets with the aid of  hiding apps or a disguise apps. Here are a few popular ones.

Secret Folder Icon Free allows password-protected storage of data, notes, locations, videos and more. It will snap a photo of anyone who tries to gain access with three wrong passcode entries, and it has a “panic warp system,” which instantly switches to another app with a gesture, if for example, a teacher asks to see what the student is doing. This one offers a tricky little decoy function. If parents discover the app and ask their son/daughter to show them what’s inside, a decoy account can be opened, which, of course, stores nothing but photos of frolicking puppies and persnickety cats. The real account with sexts or dodgy contacts remains hidden.

KeepSafe (free) creates a password-secured spot to store photos and videos. It offers Snapchat-like features, including the ability to send a “self-destructing” image to others, even if they don’t have the same app loaded. It works by sending a temporary link in a text message.

In the true spirit of sneakiness, disguise apps present  a functional icon that suggests a calculator, for example, when really it is something far more sinister. Users execute a few Maxwell Smart spy moves (pattern gesture passcode, sequences, etc) to retrieve the content stowed inside. Examples of disguise apps include Secret Calculator (free) and Hide It HD ($1.30).

Sneaks by cujoquan, CC

Sneaks by cujoquan, CC

What To Do

For younger kids, parents should enable parental controls in device settings. Make sure Installing Apps is restricted. This means that your kids have to ask you before they can install any apps, which should avoid the addition of sneaky apps—as long as you read the description of the app’s function.

For older kids, keep the boundaries and expectations clear and the conversations open. If you suspect or discover sneaky apps, try to avoid immediately demanding to see what’s hidden.  The decoy option offered by most hiding apps means you probably won’t find out. Better to start (and continue) a conversation about trust and discuss what they would need to hide.

The presence of hiding apps could signify problems–with pornography or shady contacts, for example, but there’s a chance they’re there to create a private space to explore and sort through the identity issues that are normal to adolescence. Whatever the case, be calm and open, and start that conversation.

Want to Read More Parent App Alerts?

One of my sources was internet safety expert Steve Woda of uKnow.com, who gives an excellent overview.