Kids have been hiding things from their parents since the beginning of time. With the changes in technology, however, it has gotten a whole lot easier than stuffing magazines under their mattress. The good news for parents is that it has also gotten easier to monitor their children through the use of technology. The key to keeping children safe on the technology they are allowed to use is to always be one step ahead of the child. Installing monitoring software like Boomerang is a great way to stay in the know, but you do have to know what to look for sometimes.
What are Vault Apps?
Read this previous post on this subject for specific examples of apps that are Vault apps.
A vault app is an application that allows the user to hide anything from photos and videos to texts and calls. Often these applications appear to be something different, like a calculator. Once you open the app, you type in a code to access the real content. There are even vault within a vault apps that will appear to show you what has been hidden, but it is actually only showing you some of the content.
I don't need to explain how dangerous these kinds of applications can be. It is a parent's responsibility to keep their children safe, and these applications open a whole world of possibilities for them, which are almost always inappropriate. Sometimes these kinds of apps can actually hide other applications that are installed, so you don't know all of the apps that are installed and in use on the device.
How to Spot Vault Apps
Every application installed on your children's devices should be properly vetted by you. Boomerang makes that easy to do now that you can block applications upon installation until you manually allow them. When you get the notification that your child wants to use a new app, check out the store and read the reviews and description of what the application does.
If you do not have a parental control application installed on your child's device already, you will need to look at the device manually. While you are looking at the phone pay attention especially to applications that appear to be duplications. If the phone has 2 different calculators, for example, make sure to look into each of them. Another great way to search through the applications is to go into the settings or into the store and view a list of currently installed applications.
When You Find Vault Apps
Open communication with your children is key to keeping them safe. Your children should always be aware of the fact you are checking on what they are doing on their devices. Many parents require their children to turn in their devices each night. This is a great time to check through applications, texts, pictures, and videos. If you see anything bordering on inappropriate, make sure you discuss the issue with your child. If the morning isn't too busy, it can be a great time to discuss the problems you noticed the night before. Using the following steps, these conversations can be quick and easy, and a great way to nip bad behavior in the bud.
- Identify the inappropriate activity - If you found that your child was watching a YouTube video that had bad language, or content that you would not have approved, show them the report that showed the video they watched. If it's an application they installed, show them which application is not approved on their phone. If you found text messages with inappropriate language, show them the messages.
- Ask them - After you have shown them the content that you have found, ask them why they installed the application, watched the video, sent the texts, or did whatever it was that was deemed inappropriate. If they have installed a vault app, ask them to open the application and show you the content. If they refuse, it is time to take the device away for a period of time until they are willing to show you.
- Explain why - Children are often not aware of why what they did was against the rules, or they don't know why they did what they did. This is the main reason it is so important to stay on top of their device activity. A 13-year-old can have a hard time understanding that the things they do online are permanent. Explain to them exactly why you don't approve of the application, or why what they said online was not appropriate. Helping them understand the reason what they did was wrong can help prevent it from happening again.
- Check for understanding - Once you have explained the reasons behind why you check, and why what they have done is not approved, make sure they repeat back to you why it was a problem. This is an important step so that you know they understood what you were talking about.
- Decide on a punishment - Depending on whether or not they were knowingly disobeying your rules, decide on what the punishment will be for the infraction. Taking the phone away for a couple days or completely restricting specific applications are really great punishments. The punishment should fit the crime. If they watched an inappropriate video on YouTube, they should be grounded from YouTube for a period of time. Discuss with them exactly what the punishment will be and why.
- Reinforce good behavior - In your examination of the device reports, find something good to talk about as well. If you see that they were very nice to one of their friends, or helped someone, you can show that as well, and let them know how much you liked seeing that activity. This final step can help reinforce how much you love them, and leave them feeling better about themselves.
Catching your children doing inappropriate things can be hard to deal with. I would absolutely forbid any use of vault apps. Stay up to date on the most popular ones so you know them when you see them. Keep the conversations active with your children, and check on them frequently, hopefully they will learn appropriate digital behavior before they become adults.