Is the Telegram Messenger app safe? – What parents need to know

Is the Telegram Messenger app safe? With 500 million daily users, it’s important to understand the app’s security features and privacy settings. Find out how to keep your teen safe if they use the app.

What is the Telegram Messenger app?

Telegram, launched in 2013, is a messaging app similar to Whatsapp and Facebook Messenger. It allows users to send messages on WiFi or mobile data. In October 2021, it saw a surge in users and continues to grow as people move away apps owned by larger companies to stay safe online.

How the Telegram app works

The app is a cloud-based messaging app that can be accessed on any device. This lets you keep track of your messages easily. Users can send files of any type, make video calls and participate in group chats. To use the Telegram app safely, users can enable encryption and disappearing messages.

Users sign up with their mobile numbers quickly and easily to access all of the app’s features.

What is the age rating?

Telegram is safest for those aged 16 and older, according to the Terms of Service. However, the Apple app store has it set for those 17 and older while the Google Play store simply rates it as requiring parental guidance. Users are not asked their age when signing up.

What are the privacy and security settings on Telegram?

Telegram prides itself on its security features, which include options for messages between users to be encrypted or disappear after a certain amount of time. There are also a few privacy settings that users can use. Simply go to Settings > Privacy and Security settings to get started.

Phone number

When a user signs up, this is automatically set to allow contacts to see the user’s mobile number they registered with. Other options include allowing everyone or no one to see the number. Additionally, users can add exceptions. For example, a parent might be able to see their child’s number but no one else may.

Last seen & online

A user’s last seen time is automatically set to visible for everyone but can be set to contacts only or no one. Exceptions can be added here as well for who can never see this information.

Profile photos

Everyone can automatically see users’ profile photos. This can be changed to contacts only with exceptions for who can never see the profile photo.

Forwarded messages

Users can control whether messages forwarded from them will link back to their profile. This setting automatically lets anyone link back to a user’s profile but can be set to allow contacts only or no one with exceptions.

Calls

Users can control who can call them. It is automatically set to allow everyone to call a user but can be changed to contacts only or nobody. Users can add exceptions here as well in addition to an option that enables peer-to-peer calls. This is automatically set to be used with a user’s contacts but can also be set for nobody and everyone. Using this means that calls between one user and another will be able to communicate as normal with good call and video quality. Disabling it means that calls will instead be through Telegram servers entirely, which means that the callers’ IP address cannot be seen. It also means call and video quality aren’t as good.

Groups

Users can set who is allowed to add them to a group chat, which can hold up to 200,000 different people. This is automatically set to everyone but can be changed to contacts only. Exceptions can also be made here for certain users to never have permission to add you.

Passcode lock

Users can protect their Telegram account and app with a passcode set and only known by them.

Two-Step Verification

Users can set a password that is required when they log in on a new device in addition to a code sent through an SMS text message.

Active Sessions

This allows users to see where else their account is being used and on what devices. There is also an option to logout of all other sessions to ensure that your Telegram account is not being used elsewhere.

What are the benefits of Telegram?

Millions of people use Telegram as an alternative to other messaging apps owned by larger companies. In October 2021, following a Facebook outage across various apps, the app gained over 70 million new users.

While utilising chat features that other popular apps already have, Telegram also has desired security features. It doesn’t share users’ information with third parties and it is very easy to use with a clean look, high quality video calls and group chat functions.

What to watch out for on Telegram

While many praise Telegram’s security features compared to other big apps, users are still required to sign up using a mobile phone number. This feature reduces how secure the app can be.

Users can also join groups that can hold up to 200,000 members, most of whom won’t personally know each other. Anyone can be invited by their mobile number or username to join a group. If privacy settings aren’t set to limit who can see a user’s account, then anyone from that group can see whether or not someone is online and any other information available.

Additionally, while users must be 16 or older to join the app, according to Telegram’s Terms of Service, the app does not ask for age confirmation upon download and sign up.

How can parents or carers keep children and young people safe?

  •  Have regular conversations with your child about what they use to communicate with others online.
  •  Check in on who they are chatting with online and what kind of information they’re sharing.
  •  Help your teen with privacy settings to keep them safe and happy online.
  •  Do regular mobile health checks to ensure their devices and apps are up-to-date for the latest security settings.

Latest updates

30 December 2021:

  • Users are able to send animated and interactive emojis as instant reactions, which can be controlled via account settings. Limiting this can encourage young people to think about what they send instead of sending an instant reaction to something.
  • Spoiler tags have also been added to hide pieces of text that may contain spoilers or something else senders don’t want recipients to see before they click on it. This message will also be hidden from notifications until actively clicked on so should be monitored.
  •  Telegram has added a translation feature to allow more people around the world to connect with ease. Availability of the feature and of specific languages depends on the type of phone being used.
  • Users can create themed QR codes to easily share with others. Young people should be aware of what they are scanning and ensuring they come from a trusted source.