Parents are often aware of potentially dangerous apps their kids may try to download. Mom and dad might even go the extra mile and check their kids’ phones on occasion to make sure all the apps are appropriate.
But even careful parents may not know there are several ways young phone owners can hide apps they don’t want anyone to know about.
This information isn’t to scare parents, but when less than half of grown-ups are actually talking with their kids about possible threats online, it’s time to get educated. With knowledge of the tricky possibilities available on smartphones, parents can at least try to keep children safe in this digital age they’re living at lightning speed.
Moms and dads want to believe the best about their children, and they should. But parents also should not ignore that the world in which they grew up is very different than their children’s tech-saturated one. In a 2012 study by McAfee, 70 percent of teenagers admit to hiding something they’re doing online from their parents. But half of adults believe their kids tell them everything they do online.
Who are these parents who believe their kids tell them everything? Really?
The study breaks down what kids are hiding, and it is mainly the browser history, but also includes hiding messages, pictures, apps and videos. Teens who want to hide apps have YouTube at their fingertips, providing all sorts of videos easily showing how to do it. It’s a very personal choice as parents decide how much to snoop through their kids' phones, but in that same McAfee study, half of teenagers said they would think twice about their online activities if they knew parents were watching.
The key for moms and dads is to be honest about how they will monitor online activity with their teenagers, and to talk about it all the time. One warning sign that kids might be hiding something is when they quickly turn off their phones, or close apps when parents walk in the room. This may seem obvious, but busy adults could miss the cue.
Another tip to notice is if a child’s phone has seemingly duplicate apps. One of those apps could be more than meets the eye. Knowing that many kids do and will try to hide certain activity on their phones, parents should all be aware of some sneaky options out there.
Besides the tricks on YouTube instructing exactly how to hide apps, there is another way that involves so-called ghost apps. You can search app stores for options, but here are two popular ones:
Hide It Pro (free, Android and iOS) is actually labeled as the app “Audio Manager” and the icon features two music notes. When opened, it appears to be just that; a way to change different aspects of music. But, if the user taps and holds on the logo, it launches the “Hide it Pro” app. This app can hide pictures, videos, apps, messages and even phone calls. It uses a PIN code for privacy and will make the app look empty if a parent happens to find it.
Applock (free, Android) has more than 100 million users and can secure away any apps, pictures and videos someone wants hidden. The user keeps the information private, allowing access with only voice and facial recognition. This is a great tool for people who want to keep sensitive information private but proves difficult when a parent wants to see what a teen is hiding in the app.
To hide apps without using a separate app, there are certain steps iPhone users can take — as shown in so many YouTube videos— but Android might win the prize for the easiest process. It’s as easy as using the Hide Applications option in the app drawer’s menu. Users can simply select which apps to hide and the whole thing takes no more than 20 seconds. If a parent is hoping to launch a surprise app search on a kid’s phone, take note, and give zero warning.
Amy Iverson is a graduate of the University of Utah. She has worked as a broadcast journalist in Dallas, Seattle, Italy and Salt Lake City. Amy, her husband and three kids live in Summit County, Utah. Contact Amy on Facebook, Twitter,Instagram, Pinterest and LinkedIn.