It’s your job as a parent to keep your children safe. You lock the doors and windows at night to make sure strangers don’t get inside.
You drive them to school or wait for them at the bus stop. You introduce yourself to their friends’ parents and you’re the one hosting sleepovers.
Yet, they may be living a secret and potentially dangerous life that you probably don’t know anything about. It’s scary — right in front of your eyes, they’re hiding photos from you on their smartphones, plus videos, chats, apps, friends and a lot more.
Don’t panic. We’re arming you with information to monitor your kids online, so they’re safe and you can rest easy.
Bonus: Keep reading for secret solutions to monitor your kids online.
There are social media sites like Snapchat that leave no trace of their messages, photos or videos. The messages on Snapchat and other sites disappear soon after your child’s or teen’s friends see them.
If you don’t use Snapchat, or haven’t heard about it, ask a teenager. They’ll know what it is, and then nervously giggle when you ask them why they’d want their online comments or photos to disappear.
The problem with these self-destructing messages is that kids and teenagers may feel tempted to post inappropriate content. Of course, nothing online ever truly disappears, if the recipient takes a screenshot of the message or photo.
Snapchat is one of the most popular self-destruct message sites, but there are others you should know about. This list is always changing and updating, and includes Telegram, Bleep, Wickr and Confide.
It’s hard to catch inappropriate behavior on these apps because messages disappear. Be sure to know your children’s and teenagers’ passwords, then check to see if they have these self-destruct apps.
Your kids can keep content and chats hidden from you by using apps such as Keepsafe. To get into your kids’ apps, you’ll need a password.
There are also sneaky disguise apps that look like completely innocent apps. These include ones that look like calculators and other innocent things, but they’re hiding content from you.
Be on the lookout for apps like Smart Hide Calculator on Androids and Calculator‰ on iPhones. These innocent-looking apps are really just covering up other apps, photos and files they don’t want you to see.
Do a little research on any apps in your child’s phone to see if they have any hidden features. The app descriptions in the App Store and Google Play Store will clearly describe any hidden uses of an app.
Solution: A few ways to monitor your kids’ digital lives
Kids are smart (and tricky) and these apps can be a challenge to find. Try this for starters.
On iPhones, some people hide apps in folders that are hidden in other folders. On some Android phones, go to Settings and look for “Show hidden apps.”
Next, monitor your kids’ and teens’ online behavior. One way to do this is call your cellphone provider and make sure no apps can be downloaded to their phone without your permission.
Make sure you have a rock-solid watchdog app loaded onto all your smartphones. Free apps like Screen Time let you control which sites they go to, which apps they use, and for how long.
There are paid apps, too, like My Mobile Watchdog. They will show you texts and photos your kids are receiving and sending.
You should also be in control of their password, so that you can find apps that your kids are using. That way you can look in the App Store or Google Play to see what apps they’ve downloaded.
A bonus suggestion from a Komando reader: There’s another way to break into your kids’ password protected vault. Here’s what to do if they’re using an app called Hide It Pro, which looks like an audio manager app on their smartphone but hides content.
Delete the app, then reinstall it. When you reinstall it, it will let you create a new password so you can see what your kids are hiding in there.