Hidden apps may leave children vulnerable to predators

Do you think your child would never hide things on their smart phone? Think again. According to a report out by NBC News, 70 percent of teens admit to hiding something on their phone. But parents, do you check what is on your child's phone?

You might be surprised to find out what is hiding from you, in plain sight.

What it all comes down to: If your child wants to hide something from you on their phone they can. So how do you stay one step ahead?

"It can be dangerous because it is basically a computer in your kid's pocket," says Sedgrid Lewis, internet safety expert.

If you look around the mall, or park, you will likely see a cell phone in every hand: Adults, teens and even kids.

"You will find a lot of kids in elementary school with a cell phone," says Rob Chapman.

As a parent, Rob Chapman says he wants his kids to each have a phone, just in case they need help. But working in law enforcement, he knows danger is only a scroll away. "If you think about all the things that could go wrong it is scary," he says.

Internet security experts say new apps are popping up every day that your kids could be using. For example: Calculator Plus. It looks like a regular calculator, and when you open it, it even performs like one. But punch in the right code and their secrets are revealed.

"A kid can hide whatever they want from you on a cell phone," says Lewis. And predators know it.

Apps like Musical.ly, where users share fun videos set to popular songs, are a great hunting ground for perverts. Using the chat portion of the app, predators make contact, ask for phone numbers, home addresses and set up meetings with children.

Lewis says, "A lot of times when the kids are flipping through the videos, they may see a man that is masturbating, or is naked in the living room. It happens all the time."

Lewis says on this app your child could be a swipe away from adult sexual material. Then there's “Yellow." Some call it "Tinder for teens." It’s advertised as a way to make friends. But in reality, the app allows kids to swipe right for an easy hook up or to share nudes.

We signed up, using a fake photo and birthday, and in minutes we quickly found 13, 14 and 15 years olds nearby. We saw countless shirtless photos and some teens sharing links to their Snap Chat and even their phone numbers. Apps like this are constantly popping up, which is why experts say look at you kids phone often. If you see something you don't know, Google it and watch what they’re doing with their phone.

"We see our kid in their room under the covers with their phone, locking the door," says Lewis. "Those are red flags that we should pay attention to."

Chapman says he tries to make sure his kids know he is always there for them, but he’s also always watching. "The only thing I fall back on that I know works is the relationship you have with your child," he says.

"First you have to look at the phone," Lewis says. "There has to be enough trust that the child knows that device is the parents and there is no expectation of privacy."

To put this all in perspective: These are all the apps that experts warn could be dangerous. Either they can connect a child with a stranger easily or are used to hide things.

But, this list is constantly changing. Which is why experts say being involved and having open conversations with your children is the best method to make sure they don't fall victim.

Statement from musical.ly

musical.ly prioritizes the safety of our users and strives to ensure that all musical.ly users can enjoy our application without abuse or threats from any other user.  We take appropriate measures to expeditiously remove offensive or inappropriate content from the musical.ly app and have protocols in place to block a range of content that violate our terms of service including phrases deemed to be inappropriate. When a user flags content as inappropriate, it is reviewed and analyzed to determine if it violates our strict policies within 15 minutes.  We also have technology in place that can block spam and inappropriate content.

Account holders can adjust their privacy settings so that only approved followers can send them messages. In addition, messages from friends are clearly identified and visibly different than those from unknown senders so users can tell who is contacting them and can decide whether to engage. Our users can also block any other user from contacting them and they can report abusive users or communications to us through the application. We strongly encourage parents to review and adjust privacy settings.  Like with other apps, we also encourage parents to monitor their teenager's account, report inappropriate behavior, and have an open dialogue about responsible and safe behaviors for all online activity.

For additional information and resources for parents, please visit: http://musicallyapp.tumblr.com/parents.