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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Sunday, October 25, 2015

Dangerous Apps Teens Hide From Parents

If you really want to know how to manipulate the full power of a cell phone, consult with a teenager. Teens know more about apps than most adults ever will.

 A computing app, or application, is a self-contained program or piece of software designed to fulfill a particular purpose, especially as downloaded by the user of a mobile device. Today there are literally hundreds of thousands of apps, maybe more than a million.

A handful of these apps have a special utility for teenagers; special in a way that can be dangerous. While they are generally clueless about the dangers of attracting anonymous attention to themselves via these apps, teenagers are experts at utilizing technology to hide the existence of such apps

Here is a smattering of what is out there that teenagers are utilizing these days.

Yik Yak
This app has already caught our attention here at the Law Blogger. Yakkers post anonymous 200-character messages that are picked up by nearby fellow Yakkers. "Nearby" is determined by GPS. Because it is anonymous, the messages are often sexually explicit and abusive.

Down
Originally known as "Bang with Friends" due to its Facebook connection, this app allows users to anonymously send love notes to the objects of their desire among their FB friends; they indicate whether they want a physical "hook-up" -what used to be known as a "one-night-stand"- or whether a more serious dating relationship is sought. The mechanics are explained through a series of FAQs posted on the app's home page.

Omegle
On its home page, this app promises a great way to meet new friends, and states that they will select someone with whom the user can communicate, via video, texting, or instant messaging. Omegle's selection of the other person is based on the user's interests, as expressed through your FB likes or through selections available on the app. The theory is, rather than hook-up with a random stranger, at least you will be mingling with someone the same interests.

Whisper
Touted as the best place to express yourself online due to a user's anonymity, this app invites its users to share anonymous secrets while displaying the general geographic vicinity of the user. Whisper was described in Forbes as a "mashup between Twitter and Snapchat". Among it millions of users, a significant portion of whom are teens, a common theme among the disclosed secrets are relationship troubles and eating disorders. The app displays confessions posted by people located with a mile or two radius of the user, just to get that local feel.

Secret
This app encourages you to "be yourself" by allowing users to speak freely to one another without names or profiles attached. Friends can like or love each others posts, anonymously, of course, and if the user allows, they can be shared nationwide. The mode of posting is through a "thought of the day" to which photos or backdrops can be added.

Then there are the apps designed to hide the apps that users do not want others, like parents, to know reside on their cell phones.

Poof
This iphone app is no longer available from the Apple store, but your teenager may have downloaded it when it was viable and may still be using it. Poof allows a user to identify target apps that become hidden on their cell phone.

Vaulty
This app allows the user to password protect certain apps that they do not want others to access on their cell phones. This Android app proclaims on its home page: hide pictures and videos; control what can be seen on your cell phone or tablet.

Hide it Pro
Similar to Vaulty, but this app is available for both Android and iPhones. The app is disguised as an audio manager made to look like it simply controls the audio for the phone. If a user presses and holds the app, it reveals a password-protected lock screen behind which photos and messages can be stored.

A survey conducted by McAfee software reveals that 70% of U.S. teenagers have hidden Internet content. 53% of teen users hide content by clearing their browsers while another 34% hide or delete the content.

The best way for you to monitor your teenager's cell phone use is to have open discussions of the dangers of certain apps. As you are the parent, and most often the one paying the cell phone bill, take an active role in examining the teenager's cell phone.

When all else fails, there are apps like phonesheriff to assist. Check them out and deploy if needed.

Good luck; it's a jungle out there.

www.clarkstonlegal.com
info@clarkstonlegal.com

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