For many parents, they think they are keeping a close eye on their child’s phone by checking the phone bill or even monitoring their text messages. But many parents haven’t heard of decoy apps.
“These apps can look just like a calculator or a music app. So if a parent is looking at their child’s phone they might not even notice that there is something suspicious on there,” said Dr. Kelli Burns, Mass Communications professor at USF.
“Look through all their apps. Don’t just focus on their text messages or maybe their instagram app, but look at everything and really keep tabs on which new apps that they are adding. I would suggest a parent’s google that app and see if that app is actually a decoy app,” added Burns.
Decoy apps are apps that hide text messages and pictures on your phone. Data Specialist Group Owner, Dwayne Denny has been investigating decoy apps for several years now. “You started seeing them merge into the infidelity world where people were using them to hide things from their spouse,” explains Denny. But now kids are using the decoy apps.
Denny explained to News Channel 8 how decoy apps work. Often times, the apps look like calculators or folders on a phone.
“It has a decoy password. You put in the password that you want your parents to see this stuff; you put that in 1,2,3,4 it opens up. Of course there is all the data, the parents look at it and then they leave you alone but meanwhile there is another password that really is your password that accesses your stuff,” explained Denny.
Burns mentioned that kids can also jail break their phones, where they disable limitations on phones set by cell phone providers. Once the phone is jail broken, decoy apps can be downloaded. “You can even take an app completely off of your phone where all you do is you touch a blank part of your screen and the app is activated,” explained Burns. “We have so many things to worry about without kids, this is just one more thing,” added Burns.
The problem is often kids can be hiding things on their phone that could land them in hot water. “They could be breaking the law, they could be bullying or sharing inappropriate photos,” said Burns. “We have parents actually bring us phone to do a forensic on it, to make sure their kids aren’t cyber bullying, they’re not sexting and they’re not exchanging text message with people beyond their age group,” added Denny.
But there are things parents can do to protect their children.
“What you really need to do is get back that device and go ahead and set up the parental controls on the device,” said Denny. “If the phone has already been given to the child, then get it back set it back to factory and then start all over again,” said Denny. There is also technology to help parents monitor what is going on, on their child’s phone.
“There’s one out there called stealth genie that you can monitor all of their text messages, the content of those messages and what apps they’ve downloaded,” said Burns.”I definitely think parents should be concerned about what their children are doing,” warned Burns.