Discovering Hidden Apps: What Parents Need to Know

Have you ever heard of hidden apps? These sneaky little tools, also known as vault apps, allow users to conceal photos, files, and even other apps on their cell phones. But why would a kid need a vault app? Well, they’re often used in situations when parents or guardians are doing spot-checks for anything out of the ordinary. The tricky part is that many vault apps look completely harmless—some are even designed to mimic calculators—so they often go unnoticed.

If this topic concerns you (especially if you’re worried about activities like sexting or sending nudes), read on. We’ll explore how to identify if your child might be using a vault app and what steps you can take to prevent it.

Signs Your Child Might Be Using a Vault App

Here are some signs that your child may have a vault app or other hidden apps on their phone:

  1. Multiple Apps of the Same Type: If you notice your child has installed multiple apps that serve the same purpose (like having two calculator apps), it could be a red flag.
  2. Screen Behavior: Does your child quickly turn off their device or hide the screen when you enter the room or approach them? Pay attention to these actions.
  3. Password Protection: If your child refuses to share passwords or allow you to look through their phone, it’s worth investigating further.
  4. Willingness to Hand Over the Phone: Oddly enough, some kids may willingly hand over their phone, assuming you won’t check for hidden apps.

How to Detect Hidden Apps

If you haven’t set up parental controls on your child’s devices yet, start by checking if any of these hidden apps are already installed on their phone. Visit the App Store and search for terms like “vault app,” “hide photos,” or “secret app.” If any of these apps show “OPEN” next to them (instead of “GET”), it means they’re already installed.

If you find any hidden apps, consider opening them to see what’s concealed inside. Alternatively, have an open conversation with your child about their app usage.

Here are a few popular vault apps to be aware of (though keep in mind that these apps change frequently and may only be available for a short time):

  • AppLock
  • Vault
  • Vaulty
  • SpyCalc
  • Hide It Pro
  • CoverMe
  • Secret Photo Vault
  • Secret Calculator
  • Calculator Photo Vault

Preventing Hidden Apps

Take these steps to prevent your child from using hidden apps:

  1. Use Pinardin: Consider use Pinardin as an online safety service. It sends alerts if your child downloads risky apps, including vault apps. You can also view all the apps your child has already downloaded.

  2. iOS Users: If you’re on the Apple Family Sharing Plan, enable the Ask to Buy feature for your child. This way, you can approve or deny app downloads.

  3. Android Users: Set up parental controls in the Google Play store to require a password for app downloads.

Talking to Your Kids About Hidden Apps

It’s crucial to have open conversations with your kids about hidden apps. Even if your child wants one for security reasons (like a banking app or a journal), it may not be a good idea. Consider updating your tech contract to clarify that certain apps are not allowed.

On a more serious note, if you suspect your child may be hiding inappropriate content (such as nudes or sexts), be aware that there could be legal consequences if they store such material in a vault app—even if they received it with consent.