Description: (APP Store rating: 4+) 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."
What Parents need to know:
Telegram is following the social media trend of secret messaging. In fact, secret messaging is encouraged by the app developer. The app explains how to create a Secret Chat message - these messages are not available in the cloud or on other devices - only the sending and receiving device can access the content of the messages.
Similar to Snapchat, Telegram has self-destructing messages with a timer. Your account will even self-destruct if left idle too long. 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.
Opportunities to meet strangers is also very likely If users decide to create a username. Usernames are public and searchable by anyone which opens the door to unexpected or unwanted contacts.
Adult content, pornography, and other inappropriate material can easily be found. Telegram is an open-source platform. Anyone can create whatever content they want. Although the app rating is 4+, the appropriateness of the content is determined by those sending and receiving messages. The Terms of Service states you may NOT "post pornographic content on publicly viewable Telegram bots or channels." Notice the distinction of "publicly viewable," so everything else must be considered fair game.
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.
Cyber Safety Cop's Recommendation: Not safe for children.
This app is not app meant for teens. The app was clearly created for adult interaction. The secretive nature of this app lends itself to inappropriate and questionable content sharing and behavior.
On February 1, 2018, Apple suspended Telegram from the Apple App Store following reports of "inappropriate content" hosted on the platform that violated Apple's developer guidelines for iOS apps. Telegram will address these issues but ultimately, this will address the underlining safety issues.
The ability to connect with total strangers with the added option for secret environments and conversations is extremely risky and problematic for teens. Parents will have a difficult time reviewing what their teen is doing on this app. The self-destructing messaging will make it impossible for them to know what is being sent and received from their child's device.