I-Team finds apps designed to help teens hide online activity from parents

Decoy apps look like calculators and games
Posted at 11:49 AM, May 16, 2017
and last updated 2017-05-16 11:50:24-04

In typical pre-teen fashion, Dean and Vincent Spoto spend hours texting friends and watching YouTube each week.

Their Mom, Robyn Spoto, uses technology to engage in what she calls passive monitoring. Spoto likes the Bark app that scans the boys’ social media and gmail activity.

Bark recently analyzed 45 activities and found one issue on Vincent’s phone. The alert triggered by a friend jokingly using the word “idiot” in a Gmail exchange.

But, monitoring tools may not crack the apps teens use to hide content they don't want their parents to see. We showed a few to Tampa Police Internet Crimes Detective, Mercedes Santana. The free downloads look and work like a calculator or a game. But a 4-digit-code turns it into a vault capable of hiding pictures, videos and texts.

Officer Santana warns about various third party messaging apps that can be used on tablets as a form of texting. 

Digital media expert, Mitch Neff says the big question is whether a child has shared the same content they attempted to hide. All of the experts we interviewed agree the best defense involves engaging in open discussions with your kids.

Spoto, who is also a digital media expert, says she's been honest with both her sons about monitoring their online activities. Spoto co-founded the Mama Bear app which pin-points the location of your child. Mama bear also tracks other social media networks, like Instagram.

Your teen’s phone may be your best tool. There are restrictions you can set up from the settings in the phone. It's as easy as turning them on and selecting the type of content you don't want them to see. The options cover a wide range when it comes to content. You can restrict everything from books and movies to websites based on age and ratings.

New decoy apps come out daily. Which is why it is a good idea to check your billing statements and download your teen's history often.