*Updated November 20, 2020
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Vault apps store photos, videos, and other apps, and they require password authentication to open. Then there are hidden apps which look innocuous — like a calculator — but are used to hide pictures and messages that teens don’t want their parents to see. Like vault apps, they typically require a password to access the content inside.
Sometimes vault apps are even used to hide hidden apps, making the content inside even more difficult to access. They’re so secure that some will automatically snap a photo of a person if they use the wrong password. The danger with these types of apps is that they are likely used to house inappropriate content — usually explicit pictures, videos, or discussions. While we don’t monitor these hidden apps yet, we can alert you if your child signs up for a new social media account without your knowledge.
Signs That Your Child Has a Vault or Hidden App
- Turning off a device or hiding the screen when you enter a room or come close
- Refusing to hand over passwords or let you look through their phones
- Having multiple apps of the same type, like two calculators, installed on their phone
Apps to Look for on Your Child’s Phone
Below are a few popular hidden and vault apps. However, these apps are often available for a short time and are then taken off the market, making them even harder to discover.
- Hide It Pro
- Secret Photo Vault
- Secret Calculator
- Calculator Photo Vault
Search for Hidden Apps
If you haven’t already set up parental controls on your kids’ devices, you may want to see if they have any of these hidden apps already on their phones first. Visit to the App Store on their phone and type in “vault app” or “hide photos” or “secret app.” If any of them have “OPEN” next to them (instead of “GET”), it means the app is already installed on their phone.
If you discover that any of those apps are installed, you can try to open them to see what’s hidden there, or you can have a conversation with your child about them later.
Find Hidden Folders and Files
iOS devices have a hidden folder feature, where any photo can be hidden from the main photos. The hidden folder isn’t password protected though, so you can go in and view the photos your teen may be hiding there. Just go to the camera app, click on “All Photos,” then “Albums,” and then scroll through until you see the “Hidden” folder.
Android users can hide files by simply renaming them with a period in front of the folder name. To see the hidden files on your child’s Android device, go to the “My Files” folder, then the storage folder you want to check — either “Device Storage” or “SD Card.” Once there, click on the “More” link at the top right-hand corner. A prompt will appear, and you can check to show hidden files.
Sometimes teens will create a folder on their device and name it after one of their hobbies, or something like “Cat Photos,” where they’ll hide photos and messages thinking nobody is likely to open it.
Keep Kids from Using Hidden and Vault Apps
Since the nature of vault and hidden apps is to appear one day and be gone the next, it can seem a challenging task to stay on top of the newest version. However, there are some controls you can put in place to help guide your teens as they navigate the app world.
The first step is to use Bark as an online safety service. We can alert you to risky apps that are already downloaded on your teen’s phone, as well as those that are downloaded in the future. For iOS users, under the Apple Family Sharing Plan, the organizer (parent) can enable the Ask to Buy feature for the kids and teens in the family. That way when a teen goes to purchase or download an app, you can review and approve or deny it.
Android users can also set up parental controls the Google Play store. Create a pin that your kids do not know about, and put in filters for apps, games, and movies by choosing the maturity level of the content you want to allow.
You can also require a password for authentication for purchases in Google Play. Your teen would need your Google password to change these settings, so make sure it’s one they do not know. Additionally, you can set up a family payment method, where you can turn on purchase approval settings for family members.
Talk to Your Kids About Digital Dangers
Because hidden and vault apps are usually used to conceal inappropriate content, it’s important to discuss with your teens why these apps are not allowed as part of your family’s technology rules. There may also be criminal liabilities for having underage sexually explicit photos and messages on their phones. If you can remain calm and understanding when having these discussions, your kids will be more likely to come to you when they have sensitive questions, and not just rely on the dubious advice of their peers.
Thankfully there are resources for helping you talk to your child about sexting, as well as discussing the potential consequences of risky online behavior. It’s important to discuss with your teens how these kinds of apps are not allowed.
Teens may know how technology works, but they do not always understand the ramifications of their actions. Using an online safety service like Bark will help keep your child safe online, which in turn can help you support your children in a positive way as they explore the digital world.
Bark is a comprehensive online safety solution that empowers families to monitor content, manage screen time, and filter websites to help protect their kids online. Our mission is to give parents and guardians the tools they need to raise kids in the digital age.
Apple's iPhone is full of hidden features and tricks we're constantly discovering. For instance, did you know the Notes app has a hidden document scanner? Yeah, pretty cool. The latest hidden feature that's been popping up on Twitter and blogs is another type of scanner, dedicated to QR codes, and it's better than the one built into the camera app.
Yes, you can already scan QR codes using the shortcut in Control Center, or just open the camera app and it will scan a QR code. And you're right. Both of those methods work just fine. But the dedicated Code Scanner app takes the job one step further by presenting more of the information I want to see about a scanned code.
For example, the camera app uses a small notification at the top of the screen to open a link or show you information, whereas the dedicated Code Scanner app makes it very clear what's inside the QR code you just scanned. But here's the rub: The Code Scanner app isn't found on your home screen, nor is it found in iOS 14's new App Library.© Provided by CNET Code Scanner is an app on your phone, but there's only one way to find it. Screenshots by Jason Cipriani/CNET
As far as I can tell, the only way to find the Code Scanner app is to use the iPhone's Spotlight search feature. Go to your iPhone's home screen and swipe down in the middle of the screen. A search bar will appear at the top of your screen, along with app and shortcut suggestions below. Type either code or scanner. As you type, you'll see the Code Scanner app icon show up as an app suggestion. Tap to open it.© CNET
The flashlight icon at the bottom of the screen acts as a flash to illuminate a code if your phone is struggling to read it.
If you don't have the QR scanner shortcut added to Control Center yet, here's a post showing you how to customize Control Center to your liking. For more hidden features, check out our list for iOS 14. We also cover more general, but useful features in iOS 14.