Telegram App All Parents need to know
Hello again. So we blogged about Telegram back in another lifetime, BC (Before Covid) 😊. Here it is
I’m circling back on this as privacy being compromised is so relevant at the moment and that will only increase. Take Meta (Facebook) for example, owning Whatsapp, it’s likely that our data, on that platform, and others, will be used for marketing purposes. If you’d rather not share your data with marketeers, read on.
Telegram’s been around for a long time. Quick re-cap – it’s an online messaging App that works just like popular messaging apps WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. It has a 16+ age restriction rating but as with most Apps there’s no way of checking that users are over the recommended age limit and all that children need to do to sign up is have access to a mobile phone.
Telegram has become one of the most popular messaging services in the world claiming that it prioritises security by being cloud based and focuses on privacy by employing end to end encryption. However, it should be noted that Telegram only uses end to end encryption when using its ‘Secret chats’ feature. Regular chats are only encrypted client to server. WhatsApp, uses end to end encryption in all messages, calls and video calls.
Like WhatsApp, Telegram allows you to send messages, attach and share photos, videos, location contacts and documents. By operating using a cloud-based system the app can be accessed by users across any device and much bigger files can be shared and received – but only non-secret chats and files are stored in the cloud.
The cloud-based system makes it easy to access documents from multiple devices. Multiple devices can use the same account, and there can be multiple accounts on the same device.
Users should keep in mind that using an app on multiple possibly shared devices increases the risk of hacking if security features are not enabled or a device is left logged into an account. An individual could easily impersonate a child and send messages or view content which could violate their privacy or embarrass them.
Many of Telegrams features differ from its messaging app competitors. The afore mentioned ‘Secret chats’ not only implements end to end encryption but also won’t allow a person to forward messages.
Self-destruct timers can be set on messages to permanently remove them after a specified period.
Parents need to be aware of this feature as it may allow children to speak to strangers in extremely private circumstances with no trace of content available.
Parents should also be aware that unless chats are secret, all messages that a child posts on Telegram can be forwarded on to other groups, chats, or channels. These forwarded messages also share a link to a child profile allowing any recipients of the message the ability to contact the child despite not knowing who they are.
On signing up to Telegram you must provide a phone number and first and last names to create a profile.
Public access to these can be restricted via the privacy settings.
Users can create a public username for their profile which means that the account isn’t tied to just one phone – making it easier to login using other devices. This also has the bonus of not having to share your phone number with someone to add them to Telegram.
However, usernames can be found using a contact search under ‘global results’ allowing people to message a child even though they don’t have their number.
One of the more unique features of Telegram is that it allows users to create and customise their own content. Users can choose dominant app colours for their screens, specify how the app opens links, and whether the user interface shows animations. Bots can be developed to improve experiences and can be distributed for free.
Users can create sticker sets that can be branded, the better the quality of the stickers the better the chance of them going viral. Telegram also gives users the ability to develop their own channels. All of these can be made publicly available to everyone. Parents should be aware that as this content is user- generated some of it may be of a sexual in nature or have an adult theme and can easily be accessed by users before it can be removed.
It should be noted that in 2018 Telegram was temporarily removed from the app store for hosting child abuse content and was previously labelled as the messaging service of choice for terrorists so there may be risks of radicalisation.
In 2019 an update to Telegram allows users to delete messages sent by other users across all devices allowing ultimate control of online communications.
Here are our main tips when using Telegram app:
Tips for parents to help a child stay safe when using Telegram
- Talk about sharing information – explain the dangers of sharing personal information, photos, and videos. Once these are distributed there is often no control over who they can be sent to.
- Activate privacy controls – restrict and show them how to restrict who can see your child’s mobile number, profile photo and when they were last seen online. There are 3 options, Everybody, My contacts, or Nobody.
- Set up a passcode for chats within the Privacy and Security settings.
- Ensure your child knows to log out of any devices they have logged on to.
- Block abusive users by adding them to a ‘blocked’ list via the Privacy and Security tab.
- Explain to a child that they should leave any groups that make them feel uncomfortable – whether this is bullying or inappropriate chat.
- If a message is sent to a group by mistake, Telegram offers the opportunity to delete messages in private and group chats by holding down on the message and confirming delete.
- Report illegal content by e-mail or using the Report button within the app.
Need help when it comes to online safety in your home? Do you have specific questions on parental controls? Thinking about buying your child their first smartphone? Book a 1 to 1 session with me. Click on the image below for more details
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