Ghost apps are frequently used by teenagers to conceal messages, pictures, videos or browsing history. Find out how to spot them and what to do if your teen has them.

Ghost apps are applications that are purposely created to conceal information that a person does not want others to see or access. Some ghost apps can incorporate videos or sound files, while other ghost apps can conceal the presence of other applications. Ghost picture apps can keep photo files in a secret folder.

Ghost apps have become popular apps for teens, as adolescents use these applications to hide things that they do not want others to see. This may not be problematic if a teenager is hiding something harmless such as a digital diary, but can be dangerous if a teenager is hiding photos or videos with drug or sexual-related content.

What Are Ghost Apps?

Ghost apps look safe and harmless from the outside, but function as a type of vault to conceal and secure different types of data. A vault app is purposely designed to be inconspicuous to avoid attention from a casual observer. These apps can keep photos, videos or messages private so that these files cannot be discovered by another person. Vault apps can also keep notes, contact lists and browsing history hidden.

Teen messaging apps, such as CoverMe, but can also hide media content, contacts and phone logs. Other teen messaging applications are not necessarily classified as ghost apps, but can still be dangerous if teenagers are using them to discuss inappropriate subjects. Adolescents may be using these messaging applications to talk about drugs or may even be conversing with drug dealers directly. Teen drug use may be perpetuated through teen messaging applications.

How to Spot a Ghost App

Ghost apps can be difficult to spot, as they are purposely designed to be hidden and unobtrusive. A popular ghost app is a fake calculator app, which presents as a working calculator application, but is also a place for hidden files that can be accessed when a code is entered. Secret Calculator Folder Free, Calculator Vault-Gallery Lock and Secret photos KYMS are three of these fake calculator apps. Fake GPS apps are also popular and they allow teenagers to mask their true location via ghost apps. They can post inaccurate locations to social media and interfere with their phone’s tracking mechanisms.

Other ghost apps may look like a utility folder or an application to control the volume of music, sounds or podcasts when in actuality, they are concealing other information. Teenagers can also hide their applications by altering their phone settings, which can hide applications from their main home screens. Fake settings apps can also hide pertinent information and may have a decoy mode that can be shown to an inquisitive parent. The Best Secret Folder app looks like a settings folder but can hold various types of password-protected data.

What Can Parents Do?

It is important for parents to educate themselves about technology and how their teenagers are using devices today. Parents need to be aware that ghost apps exist, in addition to being vigilant to the types of files and applications that teenagers are using. As ghost apps are meant to disguise information, it is important to be aware of your teenager’s phone activity through some type of monitoring software, which can provide valuable information about what your child is doing on their phone. Cell phone monitoring for parents is critical to ensure that teenagers are not using vault applications to hide explicit content or other types of information that could potentially get them into trouble.

In addition to close monitoring of cell phone activity, parents should try to engage their teenager in a conversation about the hazards of using vault apps. Parents should try to help their child explore why they feel that using deceptive applications are necessary in addition to setting clear boundaries and consequences for violations.

Parents may also benefit from attempting to explain their concerns, perspectives, and viewpoints so that adolescents know where their parents are coming from. Teenagers may need to be educated about the hazards of taking, sending or posting explicit pictures of themselves. Talking to your teenager about drugs is also extremely important as they may be engaging in drug-related conversations through text messaging or through vault or disguise applications. Teenagers may also be sending inappropriate or suggestive pictures of themselves using drugs or of other types of drug paraphernalia.

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Editor – Renee Deveney
As a contributor for Advanced Recovery Systems, Renee Deveney is passionate about helping people struggling with substance use disorder. With a family history of addiction, Renee is committed to opening up a proactive dialogue about substance use and mental health. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Tracy Smith, LPC, NCC, ACS
Tracy Smith is a Licensed Professional Counselor, a Nationally Certified Counselor, an Approved Clinical Supervisor, and a mental health freelance and ghostwriter. Read more
Sources “Hidden Apps and How to Find Them On Your Child’s Phone.” May 25, 2016.  Accessed August 31, 2019. “Vault Apps-Apps That Can Look & Func[…]on Like A Calculator.” September 13, 2016.  Accessed August 31, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.