That calculator app that’s not

As the start of school quickly approaches, parents are busy checking schedules, noting teacher’s names, purchasing school supplies, and any number of other preparations for the school year.

However, there is one very important thing that many parents overlook- protecting their children from dangers posed by their own phones.

Det. Joey Melvin

Smartphones do provide valuable resources to everyone, including our students. Smartphones have replaced so many items that we used to depend on-phones, alarm clocks, computers for internet research, music, and calendars, to name just a few. New phone applications are continually released and it is difficult for any parent, to keep up to date on apps which are new and trending.

One specific application function which has gained popularity among young people is referred to as “Vault Apps.” Vault Applications are intended to provide the user a way to conceal text messages, pictures, videos, other apps, within a password protected application.

Young people have found that Vault Apps are an effective way to hide the content on their phones from their parents. For example, one popular app-Secret Calculator Vault, is free of charge and is a functional calculator until the user enters the correct numeric password. When parents conduct an inspection of their child’s phone, it will produce a functional calculator with no hint of deception.

If you monitor your child’s use of their smartphone, this is important for you to know.  Do you remember seeing that second calculator app? Most of your children have 40-plus applications on their phone, do you inspect them all? If the content and usage of your child’s smartphone is important to you, you may wish to consider the following information to help you in that process.

TIPS

Restrict

  • To help enforce rule violations, set up your child’s phone so that all app purchases are linked to your credit or debit card;
  • Check your child’s phone and ensure that the “in-app” purchases option is turned off and parental controls are activated;
  • Research parental control services. Applications have become a growing concern for cyber-safety, in response, other applications have been introduced to both monitor, manage, and restrict smartphone usage. There are many applications available to assist in monitoring and tracking what your child is doing online that can help you keep them safe.

Supervise

  • Inspect and keep a list of apps on your child’s device to help track changes;
  • Ask questions about apps you do not understand;
  • Randomly inspect your child’s smartphone and require that they provide all passwords to the phone and any secure applications. Remember that applications can be hidden within other applications.

Communicate

  • Set the rules and parameters as soon as you provide a device to your child;
  • Talk to your child about what they are doing on “your” device. Did it sound odd for you to read that last sentence and refer to the device as your property?
  • Remember, you bought it, you are the parent/guardian, and you have a responsibility and right to that property.

Keeping your child safe at school requires a comprehensive effort which includes parents, school staff, school resource officers, and especially our students.

Proper digital citizenship is encouraged and taught in schools, but the key component to its success is parental involvement.

Editor’s Note: Det. Joey Melvin is a School Resource Officer and member of the Georgetown Police Department.

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