What the Tech: Kids hide apps

What the Tech: Kids hide apps

Jamey Tucker and Dylan Jimenez

28 minutes ago

The other day I heard a mom say that her kids can’t use TikTok because she deleted the app from their phones. Do you know what her kids say? “Oh mom, you’re cute. But nice try.” Your kids may hate me for telling you this, but deleting an app from their smartphone won’t stop them.

First, they don’t need the app. They simply open TikTok’s website, tiktok.com in a smartphone browser. It’s more clunky than using the app and they have to log in every time, but you can still log in and watch videos. In fact, if the child has a smartphone with internet and a web browser, they can access Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, Reddit and Twitch from a web browser.

They can use incognito mode to hide their tracks after deleting the web history and closing the browser pages.

And they’ve found that even if mom and dad set a time limit on TikTok, Instagram, or another app, the screen time limit won’t apply to time spent on those sites in incognito or private mode.

They can also hide apps to appear as something else on their screen. For Android phones, there are dozens of apps that do this. On iPhone, they can replace the app icon and name using shortcuts. There are hundreds of instructional videos on TikTok showing how to do this step-by-step. This allows anyone to add a choice of an icon to any app. So mom might see an app icon for a play button labeled “photos” or whatever, but when tapped, it’ll be TikTok, Snapchat, or any other app they have chosen to hide.

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There are also videos showing kids how to hide apps from the home screen. Most people already know how to do this in iOS 14 and later. On an iPhone, they can tap the icon to get the wobbly look. Tap Delete for the option to hide it from the home screen. They can also hide entire pages of apps by tapping the three dots at the bottom of the screen and deselecting the page they want to hide.

And if that’s not enough, there are hidden locker apps where they can put all the apps, messages and photos they don’t want you to see when you check their phone. The Skap apps are disguised as calculators or music players. To unlock the locker, you must enter a secret equation they have set up beforehand. But beware, there are secret hidden cabinets that require a different equation. Say a parent discovers the app and demands to see what’s inside. The child can enter the secret equation of the hidden dummy cabinet which reveals only a few things that the parents don’t care about. The things they want to hide are in the other closet that the parents don’t want to know about. It’s really brilliant.

Parents can monitor their child’s use of the smartphone, and prevent them from using it at certain times, such as right before bed. There are videos of teenagers showing how they change the time zone in the settings so they can use the app or the internet whenever they want.

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Honestly, kids are always one step ahead, and that makes it very difficult, even for tech-savvy parents, to keep them away from certain websites and apps. Some teens and others make it a full-time job to figure out how to do these tricks and share it with other kids on TikTok and other social media channels. So talk to them about the dangers and what you expect from them living their lives online.

I also played around with parental screen time limits on the iPhone and discovered a few things kids can do to either spend more time on an app they want to use or even use an app their parents have blocked.

That’s a story for tomorrow.

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