I have to admit, I felt pretty unaware and uninformed when I stumbled across this. Like, “Where have I been?” How did I not realize this?
I don't have any interest in going down a sensationalist road here on the site. I write about engaging, powerful, and positive ways that tech tools can be used to make teaching and learning more fun and rewarding. In the meanwhile, there exist troublesome uses of technology that we know are more commonplace than we want to admit. But they're out there and we shouldn't bury our heads in the sand.
I felt that I had to share this little bit of trickery to give teachers and parents a “heads up” … there are Smartphone apps that are specifically designed to enable easy hiding of illicit, inappropriate content. I know, none of us should be shocked, but I just feel like giving myself one of those “shoulda had a V8” smacks in the head about this. I mean, of course there are apps like this. Like the reporter in the video says, “since the dawn of time, kids have been finding creative ways to hide things from their parents”. And from their teachers.
Apps that look like calculators or other mundane apps, but when you enter a secret code, they let you create and access folders where you can store content that you don't want others to know about. If you go the the Apple Store and type “secret app”, you'll get thousands of results! There are a ridiculous number of apps like these.
What to do With This New Found Knowledge?
So what can you do if you are a parent concerned about what's on your kid's phones? Well, you can discuss it with your kids. You may also want to peruse their phones and look at the apps they have that you aren't familiar with. You can then search out any app by name on the App Store and you'll learn if one that you are wondering about serves this sneaky purpose.
And if you are a teacher, you should just be aware. Many teachers avoid phones in class like the plague, but then many who teach kids in the 13 and up range are open to considering ways in which the popular devices can play a positive role in learning. If you are one of these (I am), you should be aware of the “cons” that can go with the “pros” that this technology brings (and yes, all tech comes with pros and cons).
If you are in a 1-to-1 program school using tablets, you may want to discuss this with your tech folks. If the devices are locked down, this shouldn't be an issue. But if students are allowed to install apps, you need to be aware of this.