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Catching Up with Technology: Ghost Apps

posted Nov 19, 2015, 2:24 PM by Brendan Davidson - CDPS   [ updated Dec 2, 2015, 7:53 AM ]
    With new technologies developing at rapid rates, we need to be aware of the possible dangers when they are used to victimize.  One such danger exists with so called “ghost apps”. According to Business Insider, a ghost app is like a private vault for your phone. On the surface, the app presents itself as something innocuous, such as a calculator. However, once the app is opened and the proper inputs are made, it grants the user  access to stored pictures, videos, and other forms of personal information. Ghost apps have been around for several years but recently they have become increasing popular for students who use it to share sexual pictures and videos. According to 9news, Cañon City is investigating over a 100 students who have been sharing nude and seminude photos with one another, some of whom may be as young as 13 years old. Those involved could face charges of possessing and distributing child pornography. 

    This case is problematic because it presents circumstances in which young children could potentially face felony charges under state statute. This case also raises some important questions in regards to the nature of information sharing across a group of individuals. For instance, if a photo was shared from one child to another was voluntarily, are they legally culpable for distributing pornographic material, particularly if their “friend” forwards it on to others? Case investigators are also looking into whether these photo were taken voluntarily or coerced. The Cañon City High Case shows how technology, when not properly understood or used, can have serious consequences. That said there are things community members (parents being the most pertinent individuals in this case) can do to educate young folks in the proper use of the technology at their fingertips so as to be respectful of themselves and their peers. Similar to teaching a young person how to drive, it is important to educate children on the responsible use of useful, but also potentially harmful technology. 

    According to Today Parents in 2012, over 70 percent of teens reported access to some type of hidden online activity. Some of this activity might be attributed to ghost apps.  So how do we prevent, or at least limit children's access to potentially harmful technology such ghost apps? There are several things that parents can do to reduce this risk. Today Parents suggests parents investigate new apps and stay informed. Technology is constantly evolving so it is helpful to keep track of these new developments and educate yourself on what they can do. Another suggestions is to look for redundancy among device applications. If a child has two calculator applications it might be a sign of a ghost app. Next, they advise the use of parental controls. Parental control can provide download restrictions that reduce the risk of children gaining access to potentially harmful applications. The most critical piece of harm reduction is open communication between parent and child. Children may not be aware of the risks involved with ghost apps and other pieces of technology. Perhaps more importantly, there needs to be a conversation about what constitutes a healthy relationships between individuals and how the circulation of explicit sexual photographs of themselves and fellow students is inappropriate, particularly if it is done so without the other individual’s consent. We may not be able to predict the development of harmful technologies, but education and awareness can help foster a healthy respect of potential dangers in using technology without thoughtful deliberation on the potential consequences of such technology. 

Stacey McClellan