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
“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
“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.”
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
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.