What the Tech? Apps to protect kids from pornography
(ABC 6 News) – A new study by Common Sense Media shines a light on the pornography problem facing parents, their kids, and school systems. The survey of 1,358 teens aged 13 to 17, asked how often they’ve seen pornographic images and videos online. 73% say they’ve watched porn online and more than half first reported seeing pornography by the time they were 13 years old.
What may be surprising to parents is that 64% of those teenagers say they’ve seen pornography accidentally when they were on social media, playing online games, or just browsing the internet and following links.
Seeing pornography accidentally may sound like they are hiding something but before you say “yeah, right”, you should see how easy it is to see images and videos with one click on Snapchat.
To demonstrate, I accepted two friend requests on Snapchat from people I don’t know. Within seconds I received 5 pornographic “snaps” from those accounts, prompting me to follow them on Instagram or to check out their Only Fans accounts. For anyone using Snapchat, Instagram, or other social media accounts, this happens frequently.
Fortunately for parents, there are ways to limit this from happening but it starts with blocking those apps altogether.
Smartphone apps such as Bark and Aura (which now owns the popular family filter app Disney Circle) filter and block pornographic content from appearing on someone’s phone. The apps are installed on both the child’s phone and the parent’s device. Parents can monitor how much time they spend on specific websites and apps and limit their time online. These are both around $100 a year.
If you don’t want to pay for an app, you can try to check for it yourself by looking at their phone regularly and examining what apps are installed. Even this is difficult and you can easily miss what’s going on.
Apps and even pages of apps can be hidden from the home screen. How-to videos are all over TikTok showing people how to set it up. They can also change the app icon to something else. So if you prohibit them from using Snapchat, they can use shortcuts to disguise Snapchat as a music app. To see every app on the phone, swipe left past all of the screens and tap “app library” to see a list of every app on the phone.
Secret locker apps are popular with kids of all ages. These apps are disguised as calculator apps so when parents do review their home screens, they won’t notice a calculator app is actually something else.
The hidden locker apps allow users to hide or store images, messages, and anything else they don’t want someone else to see. To access the secret locker you must know a secret equation to be entered into the calculator.
What’s even sneakier is that some of these apps allow for “dummy lockers” where users can put harmless or innocuous content. If a parent gets suspicious, finds the hidden locker app and asks for the equation, the child can give them the equation for the ‘dummy’ locker. Parents will not know there’s a super secret locker the kids are hiding from them.