The internet and access to online entertainment have become very prevalent in day to day life, especially for children. Children can often spend more time online interacting with friends than they do in real life. This can be a blessing and a curse to parents trying to create a balance between letting there kids be kids and keeping them safe. Here are 5 things parents can do to keep their kids safe online.
You’re doing your job as a parent. You’re regularly checking your child’s phone to make sure they are using it appropriately, and you’re reviewing their app list to ensure they are only using apps you have approved.
But this may not be enough.
Kids have found a way around their parent’s smartphone checks and are now storing secret, hidden apps that hide the true contents of their phone.
What Is Your Teen Hiding on Their Phone?
A new type of smartphone application looks like regular, harmless app, but is actually designed to hide information.
These ghost, secret, or vault apps store information that your child or teen doesn’t want you to see such as:
- Text Messages
- Contact Lists
- Internet Browsing History
You Might Also Like: Parental Text Message Monitoring Isn’t Snooping, It’s About Safety
What Hidden Apps Are Kids Using?
A few of the most popular ghost, secret, and vault apps include the following.
Private Photo (Calculator%) — This app looks like a standard calculator app, but once you enter the password, you can access a secret folder where you can store images and files.
Private Browser and Photo (calculator%) — This vault app also looks like a calculator. Once you enter the passcode, you can browse the web and your internet history will only be visible in the app.
Calculator + Secret Photos App — Another app that appears to be a calculator, this ghost application allows users to store secret photos, passwords, notes, contacts, and browser history.
Best Secret Folder — This app claims to be, “Extremely Hard to Notice.” It stores videos and photos in a secret folder that will lock or activate an alarm if an intruder tries to log in.
CoverMe (Private Texting & Anonymous Messaging with Secure Phone Calls App) — Designed as a “secure messaging app,” CoverMe provides a private vault that hides personal contacts, messages, call logs, notes, photos, and videos.
These are just a few of the hidden apps that are available today, and it is likely that new versions will continue to enter the market. So, what should parents do about it?
What Can Parents Do About Hidden Apps?
The first thing parents need to do is become aware of the situation.
Knowing about these apps is the first step in prohibiting their use.
“We realize that kids are not one, but ten steps ahead of their parents in term of technology, so parents have to be on guard and become familiar with what is going on,” explained Rania Mankarious of Crime Stoppers of Houston in an interview with ABC Eyewitness News.
Next, parents need to take action to stop their children from using these hidden apps. While you may not be able to tell which apps are secretive by browsing the app lists on your child’s phone (as some apps look harmless or may not show on the main screen), you can look at their recent download list.
Parents need to regularly review the apps their child has downloaded, and then research the apps so they understand their purpose and function.
Being proactive and staying connected to your child in their digital world will always be one of the best ways to prevent your child from making dangerous mistakes online.
Connecting with your child online is easy with the MamaBear Peace of Mind Parenting™ app that enables you to check your child’s social media activity and texting habits from your phone. The free app which is available for both iPhones and Androids helps you stay in the know about your child’s smartphone habits.
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When a website or app releases a new “kid-friendly” version of their platform, it sounds like it should be good news for parents.
With so much content online, managing what kids consume is often a big undertaking for parents. So an app designed exclusively for kids, with guards set up to prevent them from finding inappropriate content sounds like a break for parents.
But it turns out that even when a platform is designed with kids in mind, it isn’t always as safe as it seems — as it was with the YouTube Kids App.
What Is the YouTube Kids App?
Many kids enjoy watching YouTube, which includes a large library of kid-friendly content. But the platform, designed for adults, isn’t an ideal tool for young children.
In February of this year, Google (which owns YouTube) launched YouTube Kids, an app that gives younger kids an opportunity to enjoy their own, age-appropriate version of the video platform.
The new app, compatible for tablets and smartphones, was designed with kids in mind. The dashboard looks like a toy with bigger buttons, easy to navigate menus and intuitive playback options.
As for the content, YouTube claimed to curate age-appropriate videos, channels and playlists.
While YouTube Kids didn’t exactly say there would be only age-appropriate content available on the app, it sounded like it was a totally safe space for children to explore on their own.
But that wasn’t the case.
What Went Wrong?
An article on CNN Money reports that a consumer group has uncovered multiple examples of inappropriate content available on YouTube Kids.
Among the content were cartoons that looked harmless at first glance but were actually discussing playing with matches, tasting battery acid, tying a noose and tasting beer.
The iTunes page for YouTube Kids says that it uses “a mix of input from our users and automated analysis to categorize and screen out the videos that make parents nervous.” But that is in no way a foolproof solution.
Google is aware of the situation and working to resolve the issue; but in the meantime, parents need to be aware of what this means for their children.
Is YouTube Kids Safe For Your Children?
YouTube Kids is a better alternative than standard YouTube, but that doesn’t mean you can leave your child to manage their experience on their own.
Parents should carefully monitor the videos their children discover and report any content that is inappropriate or questionable. They can also use the app’s grown-up-only options to turn off search, limiting the content their children can find.
When it comes to online content, there really is no time when a parent can sit back and expect the platform to monitor the content on its own. Parents always need to remain vigilant of their children’s online media consumption, even when it is advertised as age-appropriate.
In an increasingly complex digital world, parents can use online tools like MamaBear, for Peace of Mind Parenting™ to help monitor their children’s experience with online content. The free app, available for iPhones and Androids, makes it easy for parents to connect with their children’s social media accounts and better monitor their online activity.