By now most parents realize that it’s important to set restrictions on their ‘tweens’ or teens’ phone and check in on their social media pages, texts and e-mails to be sure they know what’s going on. But is that good enough? We’d all like to believe our teens aren’t hiding things from us but, let’s be real, we were teens once ourselves and know better.

According to a recent McAfee study, over 70-percent of teens have hidden online activity from their parents, 53-percent achieve this by clearing their browser history, while 34-percent hide or delete messages, photos, or videos.

Hiding information on phones has become incredibly easy, thanks to what are called “vault apps.” These are apps that protect photos, texts, apps and e-mails by locking them all away behind one app and requiring a passcode to get in. There are also “disguise apps,” which appear to be something else – like a calculator or audio manager or even a different photo from one that you’re trying to hide. The hidden content can only be accessed by going through a series of combination of tasks – for example, pressing and holding a specific button and entering the password.

There are too many vault apps and disguise apps to list here but these are some of the most popular:


Private Photo (Calculator%) This app keeps photos and videos hidden behind what appears to be a calculator. But, if you put in the correct passcode it will open up private area. All files are securely stored in the app and remain completely private and confidential. (iOS)

cover me

Cover Me – In addition to enabling you to hide text messages that you don’t want read by others, this handy app enables you to hide documents, photos, phone calls and more. You get to keep your information 100-percent private for absolutely free. (iOS)

secret folder icon

Secret Apps – With this app not only can you hide sensitive text messages, photos, and other private data, but the app will also secretly snap photos of anyone attempting to access your files. (iOS)

spy pix

SpyPix – This app allows the user to “disguise” a photo that they are trying to hide under a different photo. The user needs to decode the disguise photo to see the real photo. I especially like how this is described in the app store – “Spy Pix is an essential tool for any spy who wants to hide and send secret messages in plain view.” Um, I’m suuuuuure there are spies that are using this app. (iOS)

vault hide

Vault-Hide –Not only does this app keep all of your info within a vault that’s password protected, but you can also opt to camouflage it for added protection. You can hide text messages, videos, chat sessions and more, for absolutely no cost. (Android)

crypt me icon

Crypt Me – This app helps users to send or read text messages in very secret way. The app allows you to create a profile for the text messages and set up a password for it. Then you can send text messages via email or SMS. If you want to read an encrypted message, you will need to copy the text message into the Crypt Me app to read it. (iOS)

hide it pro

Hide it Pro – This app will appear as “Audio Manager” on the phone. When you open the app, it looks like a simple audio management tool, complete with slide bars that actually control volume settings on the phone. However, pressing and holding the title bar causes a password prompt to appear to unlock hidden content. You can store pictures, videos, applications, messages or call logs in the disguised folder. Once installed, the app disappears from the “recent apps” list. (iOS and Android)

Even if your ‘tween or teen isn’t using one of these apps, there’s still a chance she’s trying to hide things from you. Look for unexplained blanks or missing data from her smartphone and if you notice that the browser history has been deleted or chunks of a text conversation appear to be missing it’s time to have a conversation.

Alison Jacobson is a Wilton resident and a national family safety expert also known as The Safety Mom. She regularly appears on Fox & Friends and other TV shows to discuss various safety issues.