Kids using secret apps to hide photos & texts: Tips for parents

Monday, September 7th, 2015

Cyber Safety for Families with Joanna and Jodie on 103.9FM The Fish Family Morning Show

Kyms app allows you to store videos, photos and documents behind the facade of a calculator.

Kyms app allows you to store videos, photos and documents behind the facade of a calculator.

As a mom of two grown sons, I left the corporate world in 2004 when my youngest son hit middle school to better understand what it means to grow up in a cyber-powered world and the new demands on parents. My mother heart wanted to know how we are supposed to provide protective cover for youth who have literally have access to the whole world, for better and for worse, in the palm of their hands. I understand mobile connectivity was indeed a game changer for being a kid and parenting. And for me this power crisis for parents and kids is a call to action – to respond in ways that communicate the confidence of Divine Love, the divinity within, which casts out fear.

“To educate is to enlighten the mind and warm the heart to the love of God.” – St. Joseph Marello

So it is no surprise to me that kids today have access to apps that keep photos and texts hidden. They are plentiful and popular and the kids can easily be tempted to use them to store pictures, videos and text that contain sexually explicit or other illicit content that disturb the peace and keep kids in the grip of exploitation or addiction. A good example of a “secret app” is a calculator Kyms, by  IdeaSolutions S.r.l., that allow you to store files and photos by entering a password. Otherwise it looks like a calculator.

Tips for teaching kids not to keep secrets from parents

  • Clarify that internet access is a privilege, not a right. It is like learning to drive a car. You enjoy the privilege as long as you do it responsibly. Be clear that mis-use of the cyber technology is going to result in loss of use of the device.
  • Establish with your child that unlike private, secrets harbor risks that are not in your best interest. Keeping things from parents is not the same thing as private. Explain that if you feel you need to hide something, then you probably are doing something that will have a negative impact on your life.
  • Establish a family-approved app list wherein every app is discussed before downloading. On the mobile devices and smart phones your children are using, disable the function that allows them to install apps.
  • To identify the secret apps, to the app store on your child’s device and search for “private” or “secret” photos. A long list of apps will show up. Scroll down and if you find “open” on any of them, that means they are in use. That is your cue to talk to your child about what is happening and to understand the difference between private and secret.

Key concept: Explaining private v. secret

Private is when you decide not to disclose information about yourself or your family in order to be safe. Privacy involves discretion and is active boundary setting. In the social media, minors should have “private” settings for friends only.

A secret, on the other hand is something that is determined cannot survive the light of day because it is not acceptable :i.e., exploitive, harmful or illegal. When a secret is kept, there is usually risky behavior involved and  it is a source of tremendous anxiety.


ABOUT:  Banana Moments Foundation is a non-profit education center founded in Roseville, CA to strengthen the parent-child bond in a hyper-connected world. The BMF mission is to restore families with the mustard seed of faith that declares liberty already belongs to the soul because one God grants every human being intelligence and free will and that is power that can never be taken, but is easily surrendered to the bully, the drug or the device. To that end, ten percent of all BMF proceeds are donated to prison ministries. Your Donations are greatly appreciated.

Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her cyber mom, Joanna Jullien. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Jodie Stevens, Hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM, with her cyber mom, Joanna Jullien. They talk cyber safety on Tuesday mornings.

Joanna Jullien is an author, educator and speaker on strengthening the parent-child relationship in a cyber powered world. She is a mother of two grown sons, the author of The Authority In Me: The Power of Family Life in the Network Culture, produces The Sacramento Cyber Safety Examiner column on, and is the CyberParenting advisor on The Fish 103.9FM. Her new book, A Google World in the Garden of Eden: Five Family-Safe Strategies for Texting and Social Media is now available for PC and all eReader formats including Kindle, Nook, iPad.

Jodie Stevens, hostess of The Fish Family Morning Show on 103.9FM The Fish offers insights and lessons learned about faith and recovery from addiction. Check out her blog, Genuine Life with Jodie Stevens, weekday mornings on the Family Morning Show.

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About Joanna Jullien

Joanna Jullien

Joanna ( and her husband have raised two sons in Roseville, CA. She has a degree from U.C. Berkeley in Social Anthropology (corporate culture). Her honors thesis was awarded the Kroeber Prize and funding from National Science Foundation grant. Joanna writes to help parents with the modern-day leadership challenges of raising children. She is a contributing writer for The Granite Bay View, the Press Tribune, the Sacramento Examiner, and editor of Banana Moments.