Secret Apps

WICHITA, Kansas – A new smartphone app shows just how easy it is for your kids to be sneaky with their phones.

The “Fake Calculator App” is available for iPhones, Androids and tablets. It looks identical to the standard calculator you’d already find on these devices – but serves a very different purpose.

As a concerned parent, Kimberly Martinez says she keeps a close eye on her son Michael’s use of his smart phone and tries to know exactly what he’s downloaded on it.

“He never knows when I’m gonna look and see who he’s been texting or what his Instagram photos are,” explains Kimberly.

There are a lot of apps that make it pretty easy for kids to hide what they’re doing on their devices, like the Fake Calculator app. It looks harmless. If you open it you can use it as a calculator and it works.

It’s only when you type in the correct passcode that it’s discreet design becomes clear. The app allows you to secretly store pictures, videos, contacts – and even browse the web. You wouldn’t be able to track any of it.

“It doesn’t surprise me there is such a thing,” says Kimberly.

“If parents don’t know what their children are doing, it makes their children a lot more vulnerable,” says Sergeant Jeffery Swanson.

He works with the Wichita Police Department as the commander for Kansas Internet Crimes Against Children…and knows the intent behind the Fake Calculator app.

Some apps look and work like a calculator until you enter a special code.
Some apps look and work like a calculator until you enter a special code (iTunes store photo).

“These systems are specifically designed to hide information from people whether it’s from law enforcement, or parents, or employers, that is the specific purpose for this app – there is no other purpose.”

Sergeant Swanson says they’re continuously finding new applications at are being used, because once one is discovered another is created.

“Some of them have fake passwords. So the child will say the password to this is one word, when actually it’s something else. So the parent sees kitties and puppies,” explains Sergeant Swanson.

The Fake Calculator app isn’t the only one.

“Private Photo”, and “Hi Phone” are just a couple of dozens of others.

That’s why Sergant Swanson suggests knowing what every app on your kid’s phone is for, and also regularly checking your kid’s phone to see who they’ve been contacting or what they’ve been browsing.

A good open line of communication helps – but sometimes isn’t enough.

“It’s really incumbent upon parents to educate themselves about the devices we’re providing our children. There’s not one child out there with a cell phone their parents didn’t provide to them,” cautions Swanson.

Like Michael’s, given to him by his mom to make it easier for the pair to communicate.

Michael says smartphones are pretty standard in his circle of friends and that his converations with his mom have helped him think twice before downloading or posting something he shouldn’t.

“If your child knows you’re watching everything they do with that device, no matter how tempted they are – they’re not gonna do it,” says Swanson.

“Usually I just think, is this something I want to look back on and say why did I do that?” says Michael.

“Watch who you run with…watch who you talk to,” reminds his mom Kimberly. “Everybody isn’t who they say they are. And they’re not nearly as nice as they pretend to be.”

A couple more tips from Sergeant Swanson to help you watch what your kid might be up to:

  • Keep watch for any doubles on your kids phone. For example, most smartphones come with a calculator, so why would your child need a caluclator app?
  • Also you can look for a plus sign next to the name of the app. That’s a sign it may not be an application it claims to be.
  • And finally…if you hold your finger on an app, like you’re about to delete it, the actual name of the app will appear. From there you can research that app online and find out it’s intended purpose.

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