How to Stop Kids From Hiding Apps

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Kids are smart. They are curious and they are sometimes a little devious! You have your kids’ passwords and you don’t allow them to take their phone or iPad to bed. You make sure you look at the text messages and you explain that having a smart phone comes with responsibilities. You are a loving parent and care for your kids. You trust, but verify.

A big trend that is appearing for older tweens and teens is the ability to hide apps that they use. The reason for this is simple – they want to use certain apps that they know parents wont approve of. However, social peer pressure is tough, so they want to be on the same apps as the rest of their peers.

There are many apps for iOS and Android that allow kids to easily hide and conceal apps that they don’t want you to know about. Some examples are Hide it Pro, Secret Calculator, Lock Photo, NQ Vault, and many others. If you do a cursory review on their screens, you may see some innocent folders, cute icons, and calculators in the school or homework  folders. In reality, these folders hide actual apps and photos that may be inappropriate behind the hide-them-apps.

Stop Kids from Hiding App UseIf you have a family of Apple iOS 8 devices, you are in luck. A new iCloud Apple feature called Family Share, specifically its Ask To Buy feature, allows you to set some easy parameters that will almost exclusively address the shortcomings above.

It’s free, fairly simple to set up, and ensures that you need to approve every app that their children attempt to download. When your teen tries to download the fake calculator app, you will get an Apple Notification message within seconds and you can review, approve, or deny that request. Family Share lets you do a lot of other cool things, like sharing one credit card, sharing music and photos, and more. However, we will focus on the app downloading specifically here.

Below, we show you how to do it and a reference where you can learn more

Before You Start – Requirements

  • You need at least two Apple iOS 8.x devices. You will need at least one parent and one child device
  • Family Sharing requires one main organizer to set up account – typically one of the parents
  • You can invite up to 5 additional members to the account, i.e. one parent and 4 children or 2 parents and up to 3 children
  • Kids under 13 will automatically have Ask To Buy turned on by default. Older children will need that to be enabled

Setting Up – Create your Family Sharing group

When you set up Family Sharing, you’ll be asked to confirm that you agree to pay for purchases initiated by the family members you invite and that you have a valid payment method on file. Valid payment methods for setting up Family Sharing include credit cards and debit cards.

After you set up your family, any time a family member initiates a new purchase it will be billed directly to your account unless that family member has gift or store credit. First, their store credit will be used to pay the partial or total bill. The remainder will bill to the family organizer’s card. As the family organizer, any receipts generated by the transaction will be sent to you.

Ask To Buy – the Key feature!

The family organizer can turn on Ask to Buy for any family member who isn’t an adult. Family Share Ask to BuyWhen a family member initiates a new purchase or free download, a request is sent to the organizer if Ask to Buy is on. For example, this could be a request for items in the App Store, In-App Purchases for a game or social media app, or those hidden folder or picture apps, etc.

The organizer can review the item and make the purchase or decline the request right from their own iPhone, iPad, or iPod touch with iOS 8 or Mac with OS X Yosemite. If the family organizer makes the purchase, the content will download automatically to their family member’s device. If it’s declined, no purchase or download will take place.

How to Set Up Family Share on iOS

You can turn on Ask to Buy to require approval for purchases initiated by any family member who is under 18 years old.

Ask to Buy is enabled by default for any children under 13 years old, and can be enabled during the setup process for any children 13-17 years old.

iOS 8

  1. Tap Settings > iCloud > Family, and tap your family member’s name.
  2. Turn on Ask to Buy.

What happens next:

If Ask to Buy is enabled for your account, browsing the store is the same as always, but before a purchase is complete, a request will be sent to your family organizer. You need to use these steps to send a request to your organizer:

  1. Tap the price on the item that you want to get.
  2. If asked, enter your Apple ID and password.
  3. Tap Ask. Your request will go to the organizer. You can also tap “approve it in person” if the organizer is nearby and they can make the purchase directly from your device. ask_for_permissionAfter the purchase is made, your content will download to your device automatically.

Designate another parental account (parent/guardian)

The organizer can also give another adult in the group permission to manage Ask to Buy requests. In iOS 8, tap Settings > iCloud > Family, tap your family member, then tap Parent/Guardian. In OS X Yosemite, choose Apple menu > System Preferences > iCloud, select your family member, then select Parent/Guardian. Only one adult needs to manage each purchase, and after it’s done, the purchase is final.


Remember that there are many tools available for parents. Having certain apps available can still present problems. Having a good parental control service, like Netsanity can also help to monitor and restrict apps and other internet functions. The most important step is to be aware and stay engaged. Technology changes daily and parents still need to be involved to keep up. You can try a free trial here.

*Content downloaded from family members or acquired via redemption codes is not subject to Ask to Buy. Access to some services is limited to 10 devices.

Learn more here:

Additional reading:

How Teens Bypass Parental Controls like OpenDNS

How to Simplify Protecting Your Kids on iOS

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