Is the Telegram Messenger App Safe for Kids?
A Complete App Profile for Parents
What is the Telegram Messenger App?
Description: Telegram Messenger is a cloud-based communication app usable across all devices; it allows users to send pics, videos, stickers, texts, and other files completely free. Your phone number is required for setup (similar to WhatsApp) but there is also the option of creating a username which is totally public and can be searched by anyone. The app is touted as being extremely secure because of its end-to-end encryption option that can be turned on, allowing users to feel much safer about sending private messages. Under the app’s general question section, users can “created groups for up to 50,000 people or channels for broadcasting to unlimited audiences.”
Corporate website: https://telegram.org/
Category: Social Networking
APP Store rating: 4+
What do parents need to know about Telegram Messenger?
This graphic from their website explains its features, which we elaborate on below:
(Items circled in red are of particular interest to teens.)
- Secret Chats are possible and encouraged. The app explains how to create a Secret Chat message – these messages are not available in the cloud and cannot be accessed on other devices – only the sending and receiving device can access the content of the messages.
- Account self-destruction and messages with self-destruct timer is a key feature. If you lose your device or don’t log into your account for six months, the account will automatically self-destruct. And “if you want to send messages that can vanish without a trace, try using our self-destruct timer…” the app states. This has some similarity to Snapchat and the features it offers. March 2019 update: Telegram has a ‘nuclear’ delete option meaning a user can selectively choose messages (any message–either ones that the user wrote or that another user wrote) to permanently delete from their account and the account of whoever else was part of the chat. The user doesn’t even have to have composed the original message or started the thread to be able to delete it.
- Opportunities for connection with tricky people are possible. If users decide to create a username (which is public and searchable by anyone) and are concerned with broadcasting to an unlimited number of people – because “more followers is better” to most teens, this opens the door to unexpected or unwanted contacts. June 2019 update: Users can add people without knowing their phone number and find people nearby to add to your contacts. Both users must click on the option to add people nearby.
- Tech savvy teens would enjoy this app because of the option to create bots. It recommends users have some skill in computer programming but provides a link to “Introduction for Developers” where some basics of the what, how, and whys of bots is discussed.
- Features adult content and pornography. Anyone is able to create content since this is an open-source platform so, though the app rating is 4+, the level of questionable content available is determined by those sending and receiving messages. When setting up the app, a Terms of Service box pops up and states you agree to NOT do a number of different things including “post pornographic content on publicly viewable Telegram bots or channels.” Notice the distinction of “publicly viewable,” so everything else must be considered fair-game. Feb. 2018 note: Apple removed Telegram for a period of time due to the sharing of child pornography.
- There is a hidden doorway to Google. It exists through the very standard “Telegram FAQ” under settings. From here you can get to Google Play Services and then reach a common hidden Google search bar access point. At this time, Covenant Eyes is the only solution that monitors hidden Google searches on iOS devices.
Related post: 3 Reasons to Turn off the App Store
Telegram Messenger bottom line – is it safe for my kid?
This app isn’t meant for teens. If your teen uses this, it should be with no usernames and just between family members and trusted friends; however, this app makes these details difficult to monitor and enforce.
The app was clearly created for adult interaction. The secretive nature of this app lends itself to inappropriate and questionable content sharing and behavior. The ability to connect with total strangers with the added option for secret environments and conversations is extremely risky and problematic for teens.
Are you curious how to find apps that might be hidden on your child’s phone? Here’s how to discover if Telegram Messenger might be hiding somewhere on your child’s smart device:
- For an iPhone: go to the App Store app, select “Updates” in the lower right corner, then tap “Purchases” at the top, and this will show a complete inventory of every app that has been downloaded from the App Store with the Apple ID that the device is using.
- For Android: open the Google Play store app and tap the menu button (three lines). In the menu, tap My apps & games to see a list of apps currently installed on your device.