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Anti-Parent apps: 'Never believe it goes away once it's online'

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CINCINNATI, OH (FOX19) -

As a society, we joke that there's an app for almost anything.

But for parents, the number of apps available has made parenting even more complex than it already is, and it seems like kids are always ten steps ahead.

FOX19's Kelly Rippin took a closer look at apps kids are using to purposefully hide content from parents who may think they know exactly how to monitor cell phone usage.

We've come a long way with technology, and for better or for worse, cell phones are in the hands of almost all teenagers, giving them access to a world they don't even fully understand.

"It's scary that they have all of these options set out in front of them and it makes parenting that much more difficult," said Shannon Gantzer, a Montgomery mother of four.

Apps that specifically hide content from parents exist, and it is likely your child knows about it.

"Most parents are not aware of it," weighed in Melissa Wittenbaum, who works with Cincinnati Parent Magazine. "Especially when doing research via Facebook and just asking around and talking to people they've heard of the idea, but not exactly what to look for."

Snapchat is one of them.

It's an innocent enough concept. The company calls it 'real time picture chatting,' and it takes the instant communication of text messaging to a whole new level.

But, there is a catch: Snapchat claims to delete your picture and message seconds after the recipient has viewed it.

"Snapchat. That one really scares me," Gantzer added. "My kids have it, and I got it because I wanted to see what it was. You know, take a picture of whatever they want and they believe that it's just gone. You can set it two seconds, five seconds, eight seconds, whatever and the picture and the picture goes away on the other person's phone."

That leaves kids with a sense of security that:

  1. Parents won't be able to see what kind of pictures, messages, or plans they are sharing and
  2. Those pictures are gone once they disappear.

"It's a picture or whatever that you send out. Well, you might delete it on your end, but somebody else already snipped it and saved it on their computer before you delete it," Gantzer speculated.

Snapchat's website acknowledges that a recipient can take a screen shot, but less than a month ago, Decipher Forensics out of Utah released a study exposing more.

Not only are the pictures not deleted, but with specific software and some time, they can be lifted off the phone.

"Snapchat is just one of the many apps out there that claims to not save or actually delete, and with the right software you can almost always get something back," explained Richard Hickman, a digital forensics examiner at Decipher Forensics.

Hickman's team at Decipher Forensics predominantly work for lawyers to pull information off of cell phones. They discovered the storage of Snapchat pictures after a few investigations.

"Never believe that anything goes away whenever it's put online," Hickman warned.

"They don't realize," Wittenbaum agreed. "You put something down on paper or in writing, it will totally, totally follow you."

Wittenbaum and Gantzer have spent a lot of time talking about how to deal with the always changing world of technology. They agreed that first and foremost, if the parents are paying for a cell phone, it is their property to check on.

Also, parents should stay educated and on top of new technology, but also keep an open dialogue with your child so there is a level of trust established early on.

Snapchat also offers a guide for parents online, which you can find here: http://www.snapchat.com/static_files/parents.pdf

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