Secret Apps Your Teen May Be Using to Hide Photos, Videos, Messages and Files
Your child may be using deceiving smartphone apps to hide what they don't want you to see
Photo courtesy of LightField Studios/Shutterstock
In January 2007, Apple began selling the iPhone. Since then, companies like Google have introduced similar devices, creating a smartphone-friendly world filled with tantalizing apps teens can download onto their devices with the click of a button or touch of a fingerprint.
According to a 2015 Pew Research Center study, 73 percent of teens have access to smartphones. A 2017 survey of teens by MacRumors suggests that percentage is more like 76 percent. A 2012 study conducted by McAfee (the most recent study we could find on this subject) suggests that more than 70 percent of teens are hiding online activity from their parents, with 34 percent saying they do this using secret apps, photos and videos. That was six years ago.
Some of these "ghost" or "vault" apps are designed to look like calculators or music apps, opening up opportunities for teens to hide secret photos and files from their parents — and don't think they haven't seized those opportunities.
App developers are among the many companies that recognize the importance of creating products for generation Z (teens and young adults born between 1998 and 2016). Gen Z teens are smarter than many of their parents think. They consider themselves masters of the digital world they were born into and often help their parents understand how to use their digital devices and apps.
We share this information with you as a call to action because your teen (or tween) may have installed some of the apps listed below on his or her phone, and you may not like how he or she is using them. Some teens use these apps to create galleries of nude selfies, or "nudes," that serve as a digital trophy case of "hot" girls or guys they've received the nudes from. Other teens use the apps to store videos of sexual acts — from kissing to making out and beyond.
Here are some apps to beware of:
Private Photo (Calculator%)
The Private Photo (Calculator%) app hides photos and videos behind a calculator. When you open the app, it looks as a calculator, but if you put in passcode it will open up a private area where files are securely stored and remain completely private and confidential. Free; App Store.
Private Photo Vault
This app allows users to store photos and videos behind a PIN and also includes the ability to create password-protected photo albums. A built-in web browser features a photo downloader. Free; App Store and Google Play.
Hide it Pro
This app allows users to hide photos, videos, messages, apps and calls, and then access them using a secret PIN code. Free; App Store and Google Play.
Best Secret Folder
This password-protected app allows users to secretly store private photos and videos from their photo/video libraries. Photos or videos can also be taken/recorded using the app. Users can group them via a grid or list view. Free; App Store.
CoverMe is a secure messaging app allowing users to hide contacts, call logs, messages, documents, notes, passwords, photos and videos behind an encrypted, password-protected "vault." CoverMe even allows users to embed a "self-destruct" function into messages so that once a message is read, it disappears. Free; App Store and Google Play.
Many families are using contracts to lay down ground rules for smartphone use. A smartphone contract allows parents to openly monitor their teen's phone and requires teens to ask parents before they download any app. Other families simply have an "open phone" policy, so parents are able to ask for and explore their teen's phone whenever they like.
Whatever policy you choose, be sure to implement and enforce it. Communicate with your child regularly to inform him or her of the dangers of not only saving and storing dangerous photos, videos, files and messages, but of creating them in the first place.
Beth Shugg is the editor of Carolina Parent.