For as long as teenagers have roamed the Earth, they have found ways to keep secrets from their parents. This is natural behavior, but in this day and age it’s important to make an effort to monitor your child’s online behavior, partly because there are so many dangers lurking on the internet (cyber bullies, sexual predators, bad influences, inappropriate content) and partly because nothing gives you a better window into a child’s world than his or her activities on their smartphone or tablet.
Smartphones have become the main means of communication between kids, and the instantaneous nature of the medium (along with its permanency, in terms of how long things hang around online - i.e. virtually forever) means that there can be serious (and long-term) consequences when young people are indiscriminate about what they share and post online.
That’s why many parents these days like to keep a close eye on their kids’ internet devices. However, unless you know a bit about tech trends, you may be missing something - even if you have access to your teenager’s phone.
Let’s face it - teens tend to know a lot more about the technology than their parents, and one thing your teenager is probably aware of, and that you may have never even heard of, is something called a decoy app.
What are decoy apps and how do they work?
A decoy app is essentially an application that can be installed in a smartphone or tablet which disguises itself as something innocuous, like an online game, calculator or battery monitor. The app’s icon will look just like a normal one you would see on a phone’s screen menu and may even function like a normal game or calculator.
But when the user types in a code to the app, a hidden set of functions is revealed which can allow the user to store and share content such as photos and videos, or engage in chats, keep a hidden contact list, etc. without any obvious traces of such activity.
These clever and deceptive apps are becoming extremely popular among teens, and for obvious reasons.
The average modern teen may have a lot more to hide than you might imagine. For instance, “sexting” - the sharing of sexually-oriented texts, videos and photos - is far more common than most parents realize, and using a decoy app is the perfect means of hiding such activity from parents.
The thing is, these apps are extremely hard to detect just by looking at the icons or even opening the app which, as I mentioned above, may function exactly like a normal app would. Unless you know the code and where to enter it, you may never be able to gain entry.
One of the dangers of such apps is that they can give the user a false sense of security. Since the app is hidden, the teen may believe that their stored content is completely safe from prying eyes. The truth is that someone who knows how may be able to access that hidden content - even remotely - and compromising content, such as nude photos and videos, could end up in the wrong hands and be spread indiscriminately across the internet. Scary thought, eh?
How can I detect a decoy app on my child’s device?
Although these apps can be difficult to detect, there is a way to uncover them and, in fact, to monitor nearly all of your child’s online activities. By installing what is known as a spy app, you can see virtually everything your teenager does or shares online, even if it’s hidden in a decoy app.
A good spy app, such as FlexiSPY or mSpy, can give you access to hidden content such as that contained in a decoy app. By using the keylogging function on a spy app, you can crack the passwords and enter the decoy app’s hidden functions.
You’ll also be able to monitor a number of other types of activity, such as call logs, emails, SMS, chat platforms and URLs visited by the user of the targeted device. You’ll even be able to track the device’s physical location with the GPS monitoring function that is included on most spy apps.
Parents have the right and, as many would argue, the responsibility to monitor a child’s online activity. There are just too many potential dangers online for teens to be left unsupervised on their internet-capable devices. It may seem like an invasion of privacy to some (especially the teen, of course) but the possibility of a child getting into serious trouble online is a powerful mitigating factor, and more and more responsible parents are opting for the installation of a spy app on their child’s smartphone or tablet.
It’s certainly worth some serious consideration on the part of any caring parent.