Signal Summer 2019 Newsletter 15 secret—or safe. While the apps them- selves are not inherently dangerous, they can absolutely put the teens who use them at risk. Once a photo or video leaves their device, the user has no control over where it ultimately ends up. That doesn’t just leave teens open to online bullying and humiliation. It can also make them vulnerable to dangerous adult predators. Sadly, the news is full of stories about how a private photo or video that was meant for only one other person or a handful of trusted friends was widely shared without the subject’s consent. The damage is real. Stopping Trouble Before It Starts There are as many ways to conceal data on a smartphone as there are apps to do it. Spy Calc, for example, looks and acts like a calculator but can unlock hidden photos and video if a certain combination of numbers and symbols is entered. An app like Hide It Pro can be used to actually conceal other apps. The bottom line is that if a teen really wants to keep certain information a secret from the adults in their lives, they’ll find a way. So what is a parent supposed to do? For starters, you can set parental controls and restrictions on how your teens use their phones upfront. That will give you some oversight on what goes on their phones (and what doesn’t). But the best way to protect them from themselves may be to talk to them about it. By acknowledging that you know these apps exist, you can open the door to an honest conversation about the dangers of storing personal information and pictures on their phone. Apart from their own safety, remind them that they’re putting others at risk (and possibly committing a crime) by sharing compromising images of their peers. How to Find Hidden Apps on Your Teen’s Phone By their very nature, hidden apps are difficult to spot. If you’re worried that your child may be using one, follow these tips to determine if any are installed on their phone: • Check folder names. Teens often rename folders on their devices to hide the contents they’re storing and throw any would-be “snoopers” off the scent. If something doesn’t look quite right, it probably isn’t. • Check for duplicate applications. If you see two very similar-looking applications on your child’s phone, like two calculators, chances are good that one of them might have an entirely different function. • Search the app store. From your child’s phone, open the app store (Google Play for Android or Apple’s AppStore for iPhone) and search for “hidden apps.” If any of the results have the word OPEN beside them instead of GET, the app is already installed on the phone. The desire for privacy and indepen- dence from adults is almost a rite of passage for teens. Today’s young people are finding 21st century ways to circumvent parental supervision and oversight, sometimes to their detriment. By staying vigilant and informed as a parent, you can help them stay safe in this digital age. FAST FACT: According to Pew Research, 95% of teens have access to a smartphone, and 45% say they are online “almost constantly.” Source: