Signal App: Is it Safe for Kids?

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November 22, 2019

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Signal is a free private messaging app that promises privacy for users through end-to-end encryption. Users can text and make phone calls and video calls using the Signal app. This guide will tell you if the Signal app, which is widely used among security experts, is safe for your kids.

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Green Zone.
This app is not safe for students to use unsupervised, but a Green Zone app can serve a positive purpose to help a student to navigate social media and someday build an online brand. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Green Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Gray Zone.
Gray Zone apps often contain lots of private & disappearing messages, and strangers can use this to chat with students. Parents should participate in these apps with students to keep them safe. This zone can be a great place for family time since many of these apps can be entertaining, and let your students express themselves. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Gray Zone.

This app is listed in the SmartSocial.com Red Zone.
Red Zone apps often have lots of anonymous features, adult content, and easy contact with strangers. Supervision is strongly suggested on each of these apps or move your kids to a safer zone. All apps require parental supervision, these apps more than others. Read more below to find out why this app is in the Red Zone or view our list of 100+ Apps to find a safer app with your student.
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This trend is categorized as a Dangerous Social Media Challenge.
Viral challenges encourage students to do dangerous things to garner likes, views, attention, and subscribers. These challenges can be found across several social networks and may encourage students to perform dangerous activities. SmartSocial.com keeps parents updated on these social media challenges before an incident may occur in your community.

Table of Contents

The Signal app is a free private messaging app that promises privacy for users through end-to-end encryption. The app is widely used by people -  from politicians to famous athletes to journalists - who don’t want to risk having others see or hear their personal information, private messages, and photos.

At Smart Social, we believe teens can safely communicate with their friends through traditional text messaging and calls without using a heavily encrypted app, like Signal.

What is the Signal app?

  • The Signal app is a free, secure messaging app (previously called TextSecure). Chats are protected from spying eyes
  • It’s available in the iOS App Store, Google Play, and on Chrome
  • Users can text, have group chats, and make free voice calls and video calls (nationally and internationally)
  • The app promises end-to-end encryption for all communication so only the sender and recipient can access messages
  • The app’s developer is a 501c3 nonprofit and there are no in-app purchases available
  • The company says it doesn’t collect metadata on its users (this includes a user’s identity and location)
  • The app asks for permission to access the user’s contacts
  • Users can set the Signal app to make all messages automatically disappear
  • Signal app users can take screenshots of messages they receive before they disappear, just like on Snapchat

The Signal App in the News:

The desire for privacy, encryption and even disappearing messages has increased. And that's why Signal, long the private messaging domain to evade or pry information from the alphabet soup of Washington power brokers – FBI, NSA and CIA – has surged into the NFL, NBA, NCAA and beyond.

Yahoo Sports

With all of their security-minded features, like disappearing messages and identity-confirming safety numbers, secure chat apps can rightfully give you peace of mind. You should absolutely use them. As the adage goes, though, there's no such thing as perfect security. And feeling invincible could get you in trouble.

Wired

The Signal app is popular with teens who want extra privacy

Teen Vogue headline: How to keep messages secure. Security experts give their best advice for keeping messages secure, whether you're at a protest or just want to keep out snooping siblings.

"Avoid SMS for texting, instead [of] using a secure messaging app – whether it’s Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, or a stronger tool such as Signal… [they have] end-to-end encryption. Think of that like a tunnel protected by secret handshakes that keeps your messages from being read by anyone else, including the company that makes the app."

Source: Teen Vogue

Hackers have targeted the Signal app

Forbes: Signal Messenger eavesdropping exploit confirmed-what you need to know

“The bug allowed a hacker to phone a target device, and the call would be answered without the recipient needing to accept the call, essentially letting the hacker listen-in on the victim.”

Source: Forbes

What users say about the Signal app:

If you want to save a photo sent to you or a piece of conversation containing something you wish to keep, screenshot it. Crop the picture for photos and stick the info you saved to a file folder or notes.

iOS Apple Store User

You can have it set to burn on read so even if someone had hold of your phone they can't see any past messages.

Google Play Store User

Why should parents care?

  • The Signal app is widely recognized as one of the safest private messaging apps
  • Using any private messaging app could lead to negative behavior because students might feel they can hide their actions from their parents
  • Some teens might post riskier content on the Signal app than they would post on other social networks. This is because messages disappear and aren’t meant to be permanent
  • Sometimes kids use apps like this to hide activity from their parents' phone bill
  • Parents need to know that trusted sources are urging teens to use this app. This could make them feel like it's safe and they should be using it

What can parents do?

  • Parents can chat with their kids about the Signal app to decide if it's a good fit for their family
  • Teach teens that they should never send messages that a parent wouldn't approve of
  • It's okay for students to have fun and message their friends. But they should be using the classic SMS feature built into their phones. They don't need an encrypted app used by government officials and security agencies
  • Remind your students that messages and photos aren’t really totally private (since anyone can take screenshots)
  • Ensure your teen knows what’s appropriate to send in a message and who they can message
  • When your teen is ready to use apps in a positive way, then visit our Parent App Guide. Start with an app in our Green Zone

Conclusion

The Signal app is in the Smart Social Red Zone because we don't recommend it for teens and tweens. As parents and educators, you can’t completely control what students are doing on their phones or computers. But you can keep the dialogue open about the ways they should act responsibly online. Always encourage good digital behavior so they don't have to rely on an app that deletes everything they write.

Are you ready to take the next step to protect your family online? Register today for an all-access pass to Smart Social's workshops and videos.


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