Telegram Messenger is an app that offers unlimited instant messaging providing the possibility of extra secrecy with encrypted chats. Many messages sync across devices so users can access their chats on any internet-connected device (phone, tablet, computer, etc.) Users can join or host group chats with up to 200,000 other Telegram users.
What is Telegram Messenger?
- Telegram Messenger is a messaging app that is separate from the phone’s native messaging software
- A users creates their account by confirming a cell phone number. They have the option to create a username and t.me/username link so other users can connect without exchanging phone numbers
- Users can send files (photos, videos, etc.) of any type to contacts or groups in the app
- Telegram Groups can contain up to 200,000 users at once
- Channels broadcast to an unlimited number of users or users can communicate one-on-one
- Users find other users by searching for a phone number or usernames. The app asks for permission to access the cell phone’s contacts, but it is not required to create an account or use the app
- Voice calls, video calls, and voice chats in groups are available through the app
- Users can access Group or Channel messages by accessing their Telegram account on any internet-connected device. Heads up: if a student has lost their phone privileges, they could access Telegram messages on a computer or tablet)
- Secret Chats provide end-to-end encryption. Only the sender and recipient can read or access the messages. Secret Chats can only be accessed on one device per user compared to Groups or Channels that can be accessed on any device the user logs into
- Users cannot forward Secret Chats and can set a time for the messages to “disappear” from the message records
- The app attempts to alert users if a screenshot is taken of the Secret Message. The company says “there is no bulletproof way of detecting screenshot”
Why do students want to use Telegram?
- Telegram Messenger provides a convenient way to send messages with a large group of friends
- By messaging through the app, students may think they can hide messages from adults who monitor their cell phone usage. Users can set a unique passcode for the app to lock out others who may have access to their phone
- Telegram offers encryption of specific messages. This might make teens think their messages are secure, regardless of whom they are messaging with
- Like Snapchat and Instagram, Telegram Messenger offers stickers, gif searches, and a photo editor. Students often enjoy using the features to create fun messages
- Users can share a “last seen status” with other users, which can make teens feel more connected to other users
- Telegram Messenger offers a “People Nearby” search. Teens can use this to easily connect with others who are on the app and are physically nearby
- Online: https://telegram.org/
- Apple App Store: 17+
- Google Play: M (Mature 17+)
- Owned by: Telegram FZ-LLC, currently based in Dubai
Telegram in the news
[A] growing cyber threat where hackers use Telegram, the instant messaging app with over 500 million active users, as a command and control system.Forbes
‘Unfortunately, the internet allows for easy and anonymous access to children by strangers who are hiding behind a computer screen. That is why these operations are paramount to ensuring our most vulnerable population is safe and protected…’Newsweek
The Telegram apps were taken down off the App Store because the App Store team was alerted to illegal content, specifically child pornography, in the apps,” Schiller wrote to the user. “After verifying the existence of the illegal content, the team took the apps down from the store, alerted the developer, and notified the proper authorities, including the NCMEC (National Center for Missing and Exploited Children).The Verge
Why should parents care?
- Anyone with your student’s username can message them through the app
- It is possible for users to see when another user is online. As a result, students feel peer pressure among their connections to check-in often
- Using the “People Nearby” feature opens teens up to strangers knowing their location
- “Secret” or “disappearing” messages encourages students to sometimes share photos or talk in ways they wouldn’t off the app. Consequently, child predators know how vulnerable young users are in these types of apps
- By default, Telegram Messenger allows any member of a group to invite new members to a Group chat and as a result, a Group can quickly become populated by people your student doesn’t actually know
- Activity on Telegram Messenger won’t show up on your phone bill, therefore, some students may be more inclined to act negatively when using this app
- Experts in the security industry question the actual security the app promotes. Apple App Store has removed the app in the past for illegal content
- If your student feels the need to set a unique passcode for the Telegram app, talk with them about why they feel it is necessary. Have them share this, and all their social media passwords with you
What can parents do?
- If your teen has the Telegram Messenger app, ask them how they use the app and who they are connected with
- If there is a positive purpose for your students to use the app (like connecting with their sports team or school organization), download the app yourself. Parents can explore how it works, connect with your student on the app, and set limits on what types of Groups or Channels they should be participating in
- Talk about who your student should be talking with on the app. Even if they are in a group of trusted people, they should never share sensitive or personal information
- Set Smart Notifications in the app or on the student’s phone’s settings to minimize distractions from incoming messages
- Tell students to not share their phone number or t.me link with strangers or through other public social media messages
- Talk about what to do if a stranger, or anyone, tries to blackmail them to send inappropriate photos of themselves through the app
- Encourage your student to use the block function if strangers or bullies contact them through the app. Consider removing their username if they are frequently contacted by strangers
- Frequently talk with your students about who they are connecting with on Telegram Messenger
- Remind your teens they can always come to you if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable
- Join the SmartSocial.com VIP (Very Informed Parent) program to learn more tips to keep your students safer online
In conclusion, the Telegram Messenger app connects users to large Groups or unlimited Channels of other users. Large chat groups can easily get out of control with unknown members. This certainly has the possibility of connecting your student to strangers through the app. The People Nearby feature is a threat to the physical safety of your student if they share this information.