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Andy Griffith, Dr. Breen and Hidden Apps

andy_griffith_don_knotts_1970One of my all-time favorite TV shows when I was a kid was THE ANDY GRIFFITH SHOW. In fact, years later while working in the video/film production business, our crew would often sit in our cafeteria watching reruns of the shows that we had each seen hundreds of times before. Yet, we never tired of hearing the simple yet funny banter between Barney, Andy and Otis. Life in the 1960’s seemed so simple in an era of black and white images.

I recall the episode when a visiting preacher gave a Sunday sermon related to the fast-paced world of the early 1960’s.

Dr. Breen: What has become of the old-fashion ways? The simple pleasures of the past?… The joy and serenity of just sitting and listening?”

I suppose to parents in the 1960’s, life was fast paced. Rock & Roll was on the radio, TV dinners were in the oven and Bonanza was now in color… assuming you had a color TV. Andy seldom had issues with Opie other than an occasional hidden turtle or frog in a shoe-box in his bedroom. Times have changed.

In real-life, perhaps every child has kept something from their parents… a note from a friend, a diary, book or magazine. Kids are curious and impulsive by nature. Yet the desire for privacy is built into their DNA. However, as parents it is our responsibility to manage that expectation and minimize the potential negative consequences of their online activity.

The era of paper love notes, and origami ‘fortune teller’ games that predicted who you would marry have faded into the ethers of the universe. They have been replaced with SnapChat, Kik and a long-line of social media platforms that cloud each parent’s horizons. It’s a time consuming, difficult task to keep pace with our children while also bolstering our digital literacy.

While we attempt to manage our child’s online behavior, there has been a growing use of apps that actually hide a child’s activity from the prying eyes of onlookers: aka, Mom and Dad. These secret mobile apps, which can be used to hide texts, images and videos are drawing warnings and concern from officials and parents.

Recently, Pamela Casey, a county district attorney in Alabama, posted the following video to Facebook warning parents about the apps. ABC NEWS VIDEO

As Pamela stated to ABC News, “I encourage you to look at your child’s phone,” she said. “If one child knows about it, many children know about it.”

Given that some teens exchange nude pictures of other teens – and the fact that images of anyone under the age of 18 in a nude state is illegal, parents need to recognize the potential consequences of such activity.

There are many such apps in the iTunes and Google Play stores that provide hidden features. Such apps might look like a calculator, but when users enter a secret password, they have access to concealed files such as videos, photos or text messages.

But there is one sure-fire way of keeping your children from using such apps: ELIMINATE THEIR ACCESS TO INSTALL APPS! Parents should “own the password” that enables any downloading of apps to a device. If they don’t — a child can easily download an app and eliminate a parent’s view of their child’s online behavior.

I encourage you to take a few minutes and search what is available. For example: If you go to the iTunes App store and simply enter the word “hide” in your search, iTunes will fill your screen with many search terms such as:

  • Hide pictures and vides
  • Hide apps
  • Hide photos
  • Hide text messages
  • Hide pictures.

Click on any of these terms and you’ll find many apps under several different names. Some are free, some might cost as much as $3.99 – but the intent of each is to secure an individual’s phone from prying eyes.

Although keeping up with teens is difficult, there are steps that you can take:

  • Explain to your child that it is your responsibility to know where they go in the physical world – and that you must keep track of their online behavior as well
  • Make certain that you are the only person that can download an app on your child’s device. This means that you… and only you have access to the password to the iTunes, Google Play or Windows store.
  • Keep up with the apps that kids are using by visiting awiredfamily.org; www.commonsensemedia.org and www.connectsafely.org. These sites exist to keep parents informed on social media issues.
  • Access news apps such as Flipboard to keep you informed on teen culture; psychology and the evolution of technology
  • Talk to other parents, teachers and school administrators regarding trends that they are witnessing.

While following these few steps will not guarantee your child’s safety – it will give you an excellent head-start in managing and monitoring your child’s online activity – and some peace of mind.

With a little luck you might feel compelled to take Dr. Breen’s advice: “… and so I say to you Dear Friends, relax, slow down, take it easy… what indeed friends is your hurry…?”

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