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About hidden or secret apps

Parents and especially foster carers are urged to be vigilant about what their child is using or seeing online. This of course is basic safeguarding. But if we are too restrictive, we risk driving the child’s behaviour ‘underground’ or to be more secretive. Threats to take away their devices if they do anything wrong can also lead to ‘creative’ or technical solutions on the child’s part. If they do not know how to do this, it only takes one person to show them how to go about it. That person may be someone trying to build a secret relationship with the child with a view to grooming. That is why this is a question of delicate balance. 

Being alert and aware while not being intrusive or giving a child the motivation to be secretive – that is a challenge. One route is to arm yourself with knowledge.


Young people have told us that they often delete apps they have been forbidden to use, then simply re install them the following day after you have checked their phone.

Concealing behind ghost, secret or vault apps

Others go to greater lengths to conceal an app behind an innocuous looking icon. These secret or ‘vault’ apps can store information that your teen doesn’t want you to see such as:

  • Photos
  • Text Messages 
  • Contact Lists
  • Internet Browsing History

So what should parents look for if they suspect this is happening?

Stay alert. Check download history. A few of the most popular ghost, secret, and vault apps include the following.

Fake Calculator Apps

Look for any ‘calculators’ that are not the original ones that come with the device. 

Private Photo (Calculator%) — This looks like a standard calculator app. Users access a secret folder by entering a password. There they can store images and files. 

Private Browser and Photo (calculator%) — This vault app also looks like a calculator. It is used to hide browser history. By entering the passcode, users can browse the web. Their internet history will only be visible in the app. 

Calculator + Secret Photos App — Another fake ‘calculator’, this ghost app allows users to store secret photos, passwords, notes, contacts, and browser history. 

Calculator Pro+- Private Message & Call Screening. Password access allows ‘messages to be hidden from prying eyes’. Set Timeout and the app will close at a set time.

Other ghost apps

Hide SMS appears to look like solitaire or a card game (Hide SMS). 

Self-destructing messages 

Snapchat created a stir when self-destructing messages were introduced, There are others offering this approach. 

Wickr Me in which users can send text and voice messages but not video calls. Messages self destruct within times set by users. 

Best Secret Folder — This app stores videos and photos in a secret folder that will lock or activate an alarm if an intruder tries to log in. 

CoverMe (Private Texting & Anonymous Messaging with Secure Phone Calls App) — Designed as a “secure messaging app,” CoverMe provides a private vault that hides personal contacts, messages, call logs, notes, photos, and videos.

What Can Parents Do About Hidden Apps?

Fashions change and keeping up does not mean you have to hold all this information in your head, but rather you need to know where to find it if and when you need it. 

You may not be able to tell which apps are secretive simply by browsing the app lists on your child’s phone (as some apps look harmless or may not show on the main screen) Look instead at their recent download list.

Regularly review the apps their child has downloaded, and then find out about the apps – what they do and how they are used.

Hidden text messages on Android

It is possible to hide text messages by turning on ‘Silent’ notifications from the phone’s home screen. Individual contacts can be hidden.

Hidden text messages on iOS

Being proactive and staying connected to your child in their digital world will always be one of the best ways to prevent your child from making dangerous mistakes online.

Connecting with your child online is easy with the MamaBear Peace of Mind Parenting™ app that enables you to check your child’s social media activity and texting habits from your phone. The free app which is available for both iPhones and Androids helps you stay in the know about your child’s smartphone habits.

Hiding the user number when texting

Perhaps the child you care for needs to be hiding their number when sending a SMS? There may be a safeguarding need for this.

Hiding caller ID in Android

  1. Open the phone app on your device. This is the app you use to call others. 
  2. Tap on the three dots in the top right corner and select “Settings”. 
  3. Open “Call Settings”. 
  4. Select the SIM card you’re currently using. ... 
  5. Go to “additional settings”. 
  6. Tap on “Caller ID”. 
  7. Select “Hide Number”. 

In iOS phones

You can hide alerts to new messages so that the alert only shows there is a message, but provides no preview.

Users can hide messages from a particular person or unknown sender.

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