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Is Telegram safe for teens?

By Dhrubaa Ghosh,

Security continues to be a concern for all communication apps. We discuss Telegram today.

Telegram is an open-source tool with a number of chat features.

Controversy continues to rage around WhatsApp and Facebook’s privacy restructuring, introduction of ads, and attempts to optimise user data for marketing. Meanwhile, Telegram, an already popular app, has found thousands of new takers in India over 2020 and 2021. Interestingly, Telegram was comparatively more popular with teens and young people even before the WhatsApp issue came up.  

What is Telegram and how does it work?  
Telegram is an open-source tool with a number of chat features. It is fairly simple to install and explore. It’s possible to have multiple accounts using unique phone numbers. Encrypted chats are also allowed. Live location sharing with chosen users is also a feature. Telegram is voice conversation enabled with a mute option, which is handy in group conversations. It’s also possible to organize messages using hash tags.  

The problems teens are facing on Telegram  
With the spurt of new users, old problems have become more common on Telegram. These issues are not new. But with more people, especially more adults, suddenly pouring into the app, the number of untoward incidents have also gone up.  

Cyberbullying is a common threat to the kids and teens in this communication app, made worse by the fact that some of these bullies are added to a group by a naïve teen or tween.  

Sexual predators are utilising the chance of befriending teens who have been using Telegram for some time, and are using them as ‘gate pass’ into groups.  

Posing as adults has become common for teens with no effective procedure to check the account holder's age on Telegram. They are simply entering a fake date of birth while registering on the app, and then getting involved in cyber delinquency or posting objectionable content, often getting victimised themselves.  

Data stealing via Telegram has become very common as no encryption provision is available for normal chat messages. Hackers are getting into teen groups as these are soft targets and contain a lot of personal data given out with full faith in the secrecy of the group.   

Telegram is too strong a trend to be stopped due to security reasons. The best bet now is to use VPN, passcodes in chat, disable automatic downloads, and simply be careful while using it.