Anonymous & decoy apps

A guide for parents and carers to keep kids safe online

Some children and young people use anonymous and decoy apps for a layer of digital privacy. However, these apps can expose children to variety of online safety issues.

Learn more about what these apps are and get practical tips to keep young people safe.

What are anonymous apps?

An anonymous app lets users users share and interact with each other without revealing who they are. These apps encourage users to stay anonymous while they chat. Some anonymous apps let users ask and answer questions secretly.

Honesty or feedback apps let users post images or ‘tell-all’ posts to get ‘honest’ feedback from strangers. Oftentimes, this can lead to bullying online and offline. Additionally, like asking for others to roast them, these anonymous apps could provide a path towards digital self-harm.

Why are anonymous apps risky?

Anonymous apps can expose children to a range of online risks, including inappropriate content, cyberbullying, child-on-child abuse and sexting.

Social media and screens give users a sense of detachment from what they say online. For example, a child might say something hateful online that they would never say face-to-face. Without the ability to see a victim’s reaction, it becomes easy to spread hate.

With anonymous apps, this detachment is greater. Children and young people might feel less accountable for what they say. As such, they may share things that they would not on open social platforms.

Anonymous apps guide document

Anonymous apps guide hero image featuring an outline of an eye with a red cross through it.

Learn more about anonymous apps with this downloadable and printable guide.


What are some popular anonymous apps?


What is ASKfm?

ASKfm is a platform that encourages anonymous interactions such as asking public questions and chatting with unknown people. It is available on both desktop and through app stores for smartphones.

ASKfm’s reputation as platform for cyberbullying was highlighted in the past. As a result, the company worked with anti-bullying charities to help create safety tools and policies to deal with this and other harmful content on its platform.

Safety features on ASKfm

  • Report and block actions
  • Restrictions on searches of harmful content
  • Disable anonymous questions in privacy settings

Cost: Free with paid options | Minimum age: 13
Risks: Exposure to inappropriate content and cyberbullying


What is Omegle?

Omegle is a free online chat site where users match and talk with random strangers. It automatically pairs users with each other for anonymous one-to-one chats through text, video or both. Users decide which medium they’d like to use.

It includes moderated and unmoderated sections, though the moderation isn’t robust. Additionally, it includes a message to warn users against potential predators who use the platform.

Children using the platform risk interacting with dangerous strangers or seeing troubling content. Additionally, Omegle imitation apps pose additional risks to privacy, security and data.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13 with parent permission

Risks:  Exposure to sexual content and other types of inappropriate content


What is Whisper?

Whisper is an anonymous app that encourages users to share stories they wouldn’t want to put their name to. Available on desktop or via an app on your smartphone, it includes text and images.

While Whisper’s community guidelines warn against pornographic or gory imagery, there is still a chance of children seeing this content. However, Whisper moderates and removes any content that goes against its guidelines, including that which promotes self-harm.

Whisper is rated 17+ in the Google Play Store. However, its Terms allow those under 18 to use the platform with parent permission.

Cost: Free | Minimum age: 13 with parent permission
Risks: Connecting with strangers, location sharing, cyberbullying, inappropriate content


What is the Tellonym app?

Like other anonymous apps, Tellonym lets users ask and answer questions anonymously. Users can receive messages (Tells) from others. Then, they can respond to these messages publicly.

Tellonym can connect to Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat to increase the number of people who send anonymous messages. As such, there is an increased risk of strangers targeting users across platforms.

Additionally, the Tells that users respond to are only a fraction of what they receive. Cyberbullying and inappropriate content are harmful potential risks to watch out for.

Tellonym’s Terms of Use state that users must be over the age of majority or have parental consent to use the platform. Some services require all users to be 17 or older, even with parental consent.

Safety on the Tellonym app

  • Language filters to remove offensive language, spam or sexual harassment
  • Custom word filters to exclude specific topics
  • Report and block features

Cost: Free with paid options | Minimum age: 17
Risks: inappropriate content, cyberbullying

What are decoy apps?

Decoy apps are smartphone apps that look like something else but allow users to hide content within them. These decoy apps can protect personal information from strangers but also allow people to hide content they don’t want others to see. For children and young people, this could mean hiding harmful content from parents or carers.

To throw off the unknowing eye, decoy app icons often look like a regular camera icon, music app, photo app or calculator. While decoy apps are great for securing sensitive information, they also make it difficult for parents to monitor what children access and hold on their devices.

Why are decoy apps risky?

If misused, decoy apps might hold explicit content harmful to children’s wellbeing. Child-on-child abuse, including sending nudes or inappropriate videos, could go unnoticed if the content is saved within a decoy app.

As a parent, it’s important to have transparency with your child about how they use their devices. Decoy apps are a barrier to this, which can make it harder to protect children from online risks.

Reasons why your child uses decoy apps could vary. However, starting with regular conversations can help them feel more comfortable sharing their online experiences with you.

What should I do if my child uses a decoy app?

  • Talk about it: Why are they using it? Discuss issues around online safety to help them understand your concerns around using these apps. If it’s for privacy or security, work with them to find alternatives such as installing security software on their device.
  • Do a mobile health check: Regularly review their smartphone’s security, settings and apps to stay on top of their digital habits. See our mobile health check guide to help.
  • Stay calm: Don’t jump to conclusions. Give them the benefit of the doubt and listen to their explanation. It’s very possible they use the decoy app to secure content in case they lose their phone or a friend tries to use it.

What are some popular decoy apps?

Calculator apps

What are calculator decoy apps?

Icon for a calculator decoy app.

Both Apple and Android devices come with pre-installed calculators. As such, seeing a second calculator icon could suggest (but doesn’t guarantee) a decoy app.

Many of these calculator decoy apps advertise themselves as photo and video vaults. They’ll generally require a pin or some other password

to use and are free with in-app purchases. Children and young people might use this app to keep their photos from prying eyes.

It’s important to make them aware that saving any kind of nude images of themselves or other people their age on their device is illegal.

Note apps

What are note decoy apps?

Icon for a notes decoy app.Like calculator apps, note decoy apps appear like a pre-installed app on both Apple and Android devices. Similarly, they serve as a way to hide files like photos and videos.

Additionally, they might enable users to save sensitive text documents. This could include anything from fictional writing to chat messages between themselves and another person.

App stores have a range of these types of decoy apps. Each app is likely to have its own security features and methods of managing user data. As such, children might face additional risks for using apps from unknown sources.

KeepSafe Photo Vault

What is the Keepsafe app?

Keepsafe  allows users to store photos and videos behind a PIN, fingerprint touch ID and encryption. Unlike decoy apps that appear as a calculator or notes app, Keepsafe is clearly a different app. However, it does include a feature to disguise the app as something else.

There is a free and paid version of the app. The paid version includes advanced security features such as fake login PINs, break-in alerts and disguising the app.

PV Private Album

What is the PV Private Album app?

PV Private Album allows you to store photos in the cloud with unlimited storage. Access to the app is hidden behind a lock screen, which requires users to enter a PIN to gain access.

The app also features break-in alerts, a photo editor and video player. Additionally, users can change the app icon to appear as a calculator, notes app and more.

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