Wickr and P calculator are applications that allow us to hide things like text messages, photos and videos.  It seems that every month there is a new app committed to the preservation of our “secret” musings but what about our teenagers and even younger kids that are discovering these apps? While the NSA might be giving us all pause when it comes to what we believe are private conversations, etc., it is frightening to realize the damage that these apps can have in the hands of our youth.

Parents are often the last to know what their kids are uploading on to their Androids, iPhones, tablets, and computers.  Since so much communication is now taking place on the beloved smartphone, it is these devices that should be of most concern to parents.  Most of our teenagers have smartphones and they are loath to  part with them.  That shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone. Try doing without your smartphone for a day. It’s easier to do without your wallet. It’s as if some part of us is missing because it is on these small wizards of technology that we conduct most of our daily business; directions, texting, photos, social media, videos, email and a vast variety of applications that make life easier or simply more fun.

Wickr is an application that boasts “military-grade encryption” and explains that they are not saving any of our communications on a server so no one can access the information such as a text message that we send. The message is deleted after a certain number of days that the sender decides.  So if you want that message to disappear from the receiver’s phone after one day, that is what you would set for your messages.  I get the lure of complete privacy in a world where it feels like nothing we say or do is private.  I downloaded the app and found one other contact was using it so I was able to “play” with it.

P calculator which is available for Androids and iPhones is, on the surface, a working calculator with calculator functions. Behind this facade it is a storage place for what you want to keep from anyone checking out your smartphone.  As you might imagine for adults this could be a boss, spouse, girlfriend, boyfriend, etc.  For our kids, it means they can post up sexting messages and/or inappropriate nude selfies and Mom and Dad might never be the wiser.  For a tiny bit of money, you can even add a feature that will tell you when and who might be trying to break into your private section of P calculator.  Nifty stuff, huh?

I’ve written often about talking to our kids and having an ongoing dialogue about:

  • What is appropriate online behavior?
  • The dangers of posting inappropriate selfies and the permanence of the Internet
  • The now increasing behavior of sexting – with or without inappropriate photos
  • Be aware of strangers and talking to people you do not personally know
  • How about charging your kids’ phones in your bedroom at night?

The other night I was watching the new show Friends With Better Lives and while I enjoy the show, I was bothered by this episode and the “coolness” of sending genital selfies to someone you just met.  I realize that the people on the show are portrayed as adults but we are promoting a behavior that is dangerous for anyone.  Where are those pictures going to end up when things go south with that person?

Back to privacy.  Are we becoming so obsessed with keeping “big brother” at bay that we are losing sight of how this is affecting our kids?  Do we understand that most of these inappropriate nude selfies our kids are sending have the very real potential of ending up on porn sites where predators may be lurking?  There are legal issues involved and I won’t go into them here but most importantly is the fact that every generation tries new things and many shock the adults of that time.  This is no different but we need to make sure our kids understand the ramifications of what they are doing and help them understand that we are there for them even if they screw up and do something stupid. Live and Learn right?

As for us adults, there is nothing inherently wrong with wanting to keep our private communications private. However, I would caution everyone against sending inappropriate nude photos.  Who knows who might be looking at them next or where they’ll end up.