calculator %

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Age Rating:  Ranges from Everone, 4+, 17+

If you open up any one of a number of vault apps, such as the calculator%, you’ll be presented with the face of what looks like a simple calculator. But tap in a passcode that you’ve set for the app, and you’re able to access a private stash of photos, vidoes, sexts, etc.

Why They're Dangerous

Leslie Rutledge, the attorney general of Arkansas, warned parents of vault apps — like Calculator%, Keep Safe Private Photo Vault, and Best Secret Folder — that are disguised on phones. Ms. Rutledge pleaded for parents to educate themselves about the tool.

Parents concerned about vault apps can take proactive measures by enabling parental controls. For families with iPhones, parents can screen apps before they are downloaded to their children’s iPhones with a feature called Ask to Buy.

By turning on Ask to Buy, whenever a child wants to download an app (whether free or paid), it sends a request to the parent’s iPhone, and the parent can then approve or deny the download. The steps, which are available on Apple’s website, involve setting up each iPhone with Family Sharing and then enabling Ask to Buy for the child’s iPhone.

For families with Android devices, parents can enable parental controls inside Google Play’s app store to allow children to download apps only at a certain maturity level. For stricter controls, parents can download an app called AppLock on the child’s device and lock down any app that they suspect to be a vault app with a PIN code.

According to a recent McAfee study, over 70% of teens have hidden online activity from their parents; 53% achieve this by clearing their browser history, while 34% hide or delete messages, photos, or videos.  All the more reason for parents to be proactive about looking for warning signs that teenagers are using vault apps.

Signs children may be trying to hide information include:  obvious chunks missing from various text conversations, suddenly having no browser history, hiding phone screens or turning off their device when parents enter the room, refusing to give over passwords, and/or a sudden increase in device usage. 

If they have nothing to hide, there should be no reason for these behaviors.