It’s technology so advanced, some users can’t even see it.
Hidden applications, also known as “ghost” apps, are a type of covert phone app many teens are using to evade their parents’ supervision.
About 20 percent of teenagers across the nation and in West Virginia are using one of at least a hundred types of ghost apps, estimates Cpl. Robert Boggs, a digital forensics analyst for West Virginia State Police.
“There’s one out there that’s a calculator that if you hit a preset series of numbers, it will actually pull up another application or hide photos. You can do a lot with them,” Boggs said. “You gotta ask yourself: If they’re using these covert apps - why?”
Boggs said he sees many teens using ghost apps to hide texts, conversations, photos, videos and drug activity from their parents.
There are several warning signs a child might be hiding something from his or her parents on a cell phone, Boggs said. Some of those red flags are:
Using the phone behind closed doors
Quickly putting the phone down when a parent enters the room
Refusing to let parents see the cell phone
Giving excuses as to why a parent can’t look at the phone
“When the parent asks to see the phone and the child says ‘Well, it’s not charged’ - just be aware. There should never be a reason why a parent cannot pick up their child’s phone and look at it,” Boggs said. “That’s what it takes - parents have to be involved, otherwise their children could potentially be at risk.”
Boggs recommends parents install a parental control application on their children's’ phones to supervise mobile phone activity.
Many parental control apps can alert adults when their child has installed a new application, among several other functions geared toward monitoring the phone.
“I don’t care how good you say your child is. I’m sure they are a great kid, but they’re going to wonder and they’re going to go out and explore, and when they have a mobile device that has access to so much information and it’s literally a door to the world - anywhere in the world and anybody in the world...I think that’s worth watching out for,” Boggs said.
Perhaps more importantly than installing a parental control app, Boggs said parents should have conversations with their children about the dangers of cell phone and Internet activity.
“Communicate with them. Be involved in their life,” Boggs said. “I think that’s going to be the best preventative measure for many things - not just the mobile device but many things. That’s the best thing you can do as a parent.”