“Camo apps” prompting concerns for parents

ALBANY, N.Y. — We get by with a little help from our mobile apps, more than 300,000 of them and counting. They help us keep our schedules, capture memories, stay in touch, and leave the waiter the right tip. They’re seemingly helpful, but some, have something to hide.

“We’re never going to see it nor will parents,” said Colonie Police investigator, Sergeant Michael Franze.

Think this is your phone’s calculator? Sergeant Franze says look closer.

“It actually looks like the calculator app that comes on every iPhone, but in essence, it’s actually an application that allows you to hide something.

Hide things like dirty photos, phone numbers, texts, and other dangerous apps that allow criminals to communicate with your kids, like the app KIK.

“It’s free it’s untraceable, it’s something that the kids decide to use,” said Sgt. Franze.

He calls them camouflage apps, and they’re as simple to get your fingers on as a key stroke.

Just search secret, hidden, or invisible apps, and you’ll find a whole host of ways your kid can conceal what they’re doing on their mobile device.

Colonie Police say they have their hands full with these hand held decoys, especially in the hallways of local schools. Investigators say they get calls involving cell phone crimes multiple times a day.

“The internet constantly comes up with ways of hiding, disguising staying anonymous and every day we have to come up with new ways to be able to combat that and get around that,” said Sgt. Franze.

Stacey Angell is a student assistance counselor at Shaker Junior High, and she’s learning all about the camouflage apps sneaking onto your child’s screens so she can put a stop to them.

“You have to go and sit down with your kids,” she suggested as a means of protection. “You can look over their shoulder sometime and if they flip back to their home screen every time you walk near maybe you need to look at that phone a little more carefully.”

She says a good rule of thumb is to thumb through your Children’s phones.

“Check their photos, check the history on their Google, and check what’s going on. Touch on each of the apps, see what’s happening when you touch them, if they’re asking you for a password the minute that you touch on one of those apps, there’s a problem,” she said.

Angell also suggests children leave their phones to charge overnight where parents can see it.

“The kids are going to be way less likely to do anything on their phone that they shouldn’t be if they know every night they have to plug it in the kitchen to charge it,” said Angell.

Since mobile devices and their ever evolving apps aren’t going anywhere, Angell says it’s not a great idea to take them away from kids, she says they’ll just find another way to get online. Angell and Colonie Police both say your best bet, is to evolve too.

“Taking the phone away isn’t going to protect them because these electronic devices are so readily available,” said Franze.

“Saying no, all that does is shut down the communication between the kids and the parents and we really need to have communication open,” said Angell.

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