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Challenge: Kids and Technology

Scary phone apps that parents really need to know about!

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“Vault Apps” are becoming a very hot topic.

Vault apps are quickly becoming one of the hottest trends on phones and parents need to be aware what these are, what they do, and how to deal with them.

What is a vault app?

A vault app is a program that is installed on phones or tablets that allows the user to hide photos, videos and documents inside an encrypted program so nobody can tell what is in the program or even where it is actually located on the device.

Right now people’s biggest use of these types of apps are for hiding nude or suggestive pictures or video of themselves or others for texting, emailing, and sexting etc.

These programs can have several features:

things such as “Disguises”, “Break in Features” and “Decoy Features.”

Disguises are designed so if a parent looks at their child’s phone it would blend in with everything else and you might not even realize what it is.

The most common type of disguise is either a calculator or utilities icon. In fact the calculator disguise would most likely be a fully functional calculator until a specific key code combination is punched in. Once the combination is entered, it will open the vault of pictures, videos and / or documents for the owner.

A vault app could also have “Break In Features.” Break in features can do such things as take a picture of the person who tries to open the vault when the wrong passcode is entered. The picture is then saved in the vault and sent to the owner.

There are also “Decoy Features.” This is simply the vault app’s way of presenting decoy information to the non-owner and letting them find what the owner wants them to find but not really what the owner may be trying to hide.

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Legitimate Purposes for the App?

For business people or security personnel there definitely could be legitimate purposes to use this app. Sometimes security personnel keep information on their phone that needs to be kept secure. Business people may use their phone to help in slideshow or video presentations.

It depends on how creative you want to be, but there are some legitimate uses.

What is the Problem for Children and Parents?

I do not see any legitimate use for this type of program for children or teenagers. In fact I only see this going badly or being used for nefarious purposes.

These types of apps should be a serious concern for parents because it is a very easy way for kids to be cyber bullied, be “groomed” by pedophiles, or a number of other things.

How Can Parents Learn More?

There are four main ways I teach people to find out information about Vault or other apps.

  1. A google search will always give you a large number of results. Simply type the phrase “Vault Apps” into Google and just start reading. There is a lot of information on the subject.

  1. For iPhone users go to the Apps store. Type in Vault apps and you will be amazed at how many of these types of apps exist and what their features are and how they are executed.

  1. For Android users simply go to Google Play and repeat the same process as for the iPhone. There are dozens of these apps available with descriptions and user ratings.

  1. Your local brick and mortar phone shop is also a great resource. The worker at these shops are usually very tech savvy and they can be very helpful.

How Can We Keep the Apps Off Our Kids’ Phones in the First Place?

First, before you ever give your child a phone make sure that you have software installed that does not allow your child to download apps without your permission. There are free and paid versions of this software available in your app stores.

Second, parents can install monitoring software on you and your child’s phones that lets you know everything your child does on their phone. A good version will allow you to turn off specific functions on your child’s phone from the comfort of your phone or computer.

How Often Should Parents Check for Bad Apps?

There is no easy answer. If you have good lines of communication with your child and you have never had a problem then a random check about once per month is probably fine.

If you have had problems with your child getting into trouble with their phone or if your child has had issues being the target of a cyber bully or worse, then you may need to check weekly or daily. However, this is unlikely and extreme.

How Can a Parent Check a Child’s Phone and Not Be Invading Their Child’s Privacy or Be Looked at as Spying on Them?

Parents always seem to be concerned that their child is going to think they are being “spied on.”

Here are the Tips:

  1. Get over it. Your child’s safety should be your primary concern. Period!

  1. Before you ever give your child a phone, tablet or whatever, make sure you have a conversation with them to inform them that you will check the device from time to time, at your discretion, for their safety. Simply tell the child that you bought the item for them to use but it is your property and it is your responsibility to look out for your child’s safety. Also explain you are concerned about what other people could try to do to them, not necessarily what they are doing.

  1. If your child already has a phone and you have had no real communication with them about online safety then have an honest conversation about how you want them to be as safe as possible and you are going to do whatever it takes to keep them safe. Remind them that you trust them but you do not necessarily trust others.

IF your child has a problem with you checking their phone or other devices, then simply take the phone and don’t let them have access to it until they get the message. Every parent alive today survived just fine without a cell phone as a child and so will they.

YOUR JOB AS A PARENT is NOT to be your child’s friend it is to be their guardian and mentor. Never forget that.

Dedicated to your family’s safety,

Brett Lechtenberg.


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