This is an excerpt from a recent New York Times article regarding the sexting scandal at Canon City High School. It provides ideas on how to track activity on children’s devices regarding “vault apps,” apps which can hide various materials. The link at the bottom is for the full article.

What parents should look for:

Parents concerned about vault apps can take proactive measures by enabling parental controls. For families with iPhones, parents can screen apps before they are downloaded to their children’s iPhones with a feature called Ask to Buy.

By turning on Ask to Buy, whenever a child wants to download an app (whether free or paid), it sends a request to the parent’s iPhone, and the parent can then approve or deny the download. The steps, which are available on Apple’s website, involve setting up each iPhone with Family Sharing and then enabling Ask to Buy for the child’s iPhone.

For families with Android devices, parents can enable parental controls inside Google Play’s app store to allow children to download apps only at a certain maturity level. For stricter controls, parents can download an app called AppLock on the child’s device and lock down any app that they suspect to be a vault app with a PIN code.

Websites that focus on digital learning for teenagers provide tips for parents on how to spot a hidden app. Common Sense Media, one such website, detailed some of the ways they use vault apps, and other apps that are used to discreetly take photos.

Tools like Stealth Cam, Private Ninja Cam and Top Secret Camera are designed to disguise photo preview screens and activate the camera through a motion sensor, for example.

A post published on said that parents should be proactive about looking for warning signs that teenagers are using vault apps: Hiding phone screens, refusing to give over passwords and a sudden increase in device usage are all red flags, according to the site.


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