Vault Apps and Other Social Media Scares

I consider myself a pretty hip mom. Ali tells me that this belief in itself proves that I’m not. I may have to, begrudgingly, believe her considering what I learned this past week. I was schooled, yo.

I have a seven-year-old daughter who knows how to use my smartphone better than I do. I’m quite certain she was born with a skill set specific to her generation. While I have only one game for her on my phone and she’s allowed to play it only when I am with her, I still worry about her access. See, I’m hip to the dangers. But the dangers upped their game and I fell a bit behind. Have you heard of vault apps? If not, read on. If so, you totally get the Hip Mom Award and I want to be your friend.

So, there are several social media apps that parents need to be aware of. We’ll get to vault apps in a moment, but first let’s take a look at some of the lesser known apps kids use to chat with strangers.

  • ASKfm: This is a social Q&A network. Users can be anonymous and attach pictures to answers.
  • Flinch: This app allows the user to chat live with friends or strangers (Make a Friend) and tracks GPS locations. The game is to make the other person laugh.
  • Kik: This is a chat app. Users can chat, share pictures and videos, and meet people (strangers) on the network.
  • Omegle: The tagline is “Talk to strangers!” The app pairs people randomly, who can then chat and share pictures and videos. Users can remain anonymous.
  • YikYak: This is a location-based social network. Users can remain anonymous and share with others within their proximity.

Then there are the apps that make kids feel safe sending pictures and/or videos. We all know about SnapChat, the app that allows you to send pictures or videos that can only be viewed for a few seconds. But there’s a bigger bully on the block. Vault apps.

Vault apps are used by kids specifically to hide images, texts, and/or other apps, anything they don’t want their nosy parents finding during their periodic searches. The icons look identical to other common icons, such as a calculator, and a code is required to crack the vault. If the wrong code is entered, the app functions just as it would if it were truly the decoy icon, a calculator in our example. How terrifying is that?!

So, what is a parent to do? Following are a few helpful tips to keep our kids safe.

  • Talk to your children about the dangers of the Internet and about how to be a good digital citizen. Stranger danger applies online as well.
  • Set any and all parental controls, both through your provider and on the device itself.
  • Check your children’s phones regularly.
  • Follow your children’s accounts. Be a friend on their social media apps.
  • Remove access at night.
  • Search “vault” in the app store. Go through several pages, and see if any have “Open” on the download screen. If the page displays “Open” it means the app has already been downloaded.

Good luck, moms! This is scary stuff. But stay hip and keep lines of communication with your children open. We can only do our best.