Hide apps and teen privacy
There has been social media uproar and negative press lately regarding “hide apps.” The stories warn parents about teens using such apps to hide pictures and other data from them. In a nutshell, if your child downloads and uses a hide app to store pictures and contact information, you would not be able to readily find the items if you were going through your child’s phone.
An alarming post about one of these apps, the calculator % app, was a YouTube video created by an Alabama district attorney, Pamela Casey. In it, she portrays the app as a secretive, harmful tool that teens use to hide data from parents. She shows parents what to look for on their kids’ phones to determine if they are using the hide app.
There are two reasons I do not like the video or the uproar. First, the app, and other hide apps, have a purpose in today’s technological world. We use our smartphones for everything from taking photos to banking. We store information on our phones for which we do not want others to be able to readily see or easily access.
You want to be able to lend your phone to someone who might need to make phone call or send a quick text in the event he or she doesn’t have his or her phone or the battery is dead. But at the same time, you don’t want them to have access to your personal information. I’m sure there are other acceptable and safety concern reasons to want to hide data on a phone. We need apps like these to protect ourselves from identity theft and to ensure privacy. However, when these apps are touted as being used by teens in defiance of their parents, they earn undeserved notoriety.
The second reason I do not like the video is because it assumes if a teen is exercising his or her right to privacy, he or she is up to no good. Teens need some privacy. And while that privacy needs to be earned, part of growing up is being free to keep diaries and other personal information out of the public realm in the expanding “personal” universe they are developing under the guidance of their parents.
So what do parents do about hide apps? Introduce these tools to your teens and explain why they were developed. Show them how to use them to protect personal data like banking information or e-books and games that are too mature for younger siblings.
As for worrying about your teen hiding things from you, don’t. They are hiding things from you. It’s in the teen handbook. It’s what they do. But if you have a good relationship with your teen that includes open communication and lots of family engagement, you don’t need to worry about their secretive, personal life.
That said, you have every right to know where they are going and with whom. And you still control what they eat and wear on your dime. These fall on the parent’s job description. It’s what parents do.