We’re always hearing about new apps from young people at our talks in Schools and colleges. You might recall Ask.FM, Ask Frank or Sarahah amongst our blogs on anonymous messaging apps and websites. Apps of this nature still remain very popular with risky features continuing to be developed at a frequent rate.
A research carried out by Cyber Safe Ireland to mark Safer Internet Day 2019 recently found from a survey of 1,200 primary pupils from 3rd, 4th and 5th classes that ‘79% of children owned a smart device that could access the internet’.
Of those ‘40% of pupils admitted to speaking to strangers online either through social media channels or games consoles, with a third admitting they speak to strangers online every day’.
Tellonym (a play on Tell on Him)
This app came up
recently when a local school raised concerns that the app was being used by
students and it was causing issues in the school. According to different sources the app
currently has between 8-10 million registered users and receives 30 million
monthly visitors – sharing 1 million ‘Tells’ per day. The app has come to the attention of the
police in Manchester, Coventry and Derby.
According to an article in the Coventry Telegraph ‘Two schools have
issued warnings to parents about Tellonym, claiming it allows inappropriate
postings, comments and photographs which have caused upset and distress to
young people’. According to the same message sent out by Urmston Grammar in
Trafford and Abraham Moss in Manchester, posts have led to police being called
into schools over incidents involving sexual texts and images, bullying and
How does Tellonym work?
The idea behind
the Tellonym app is to ‘answer anonymous questions and ask others the things
you have never dared before’.
Similar to Sarahah,
Ask Frank, Ask.fm and other anonymous-based apps we’ve reviewed in the past, users
register for the app by signing up with an email address or mobile number which
can allow them to search for friends via their phones contact list. The app can also be linked to social media
accounts such as Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat accounts.
Once a user has
registered they can send or share a link in which other users can send back
questions or comments anonymously. This link can be shared across all platforms
– including popular social networking platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat,
Twitter and WhatsApp.
Users can also
follow each other on the platform and send each other messages. Similar to most social media platforms, a
newsfeed displays all messages addressed to the user and notifications when a
new ‘Tell’(message) is received.
What about Safety and Reporting features?
The app appears
to offer users ‘Safety Options’ which can be accessed by going into your
profile and tapping on the cog wheel on the top right.
From here users
can control different safety options. Once
the user has set the safety levels they are comfortable with, they can set a
‘safety code’ which prevents others from changing the safety settings applied
to the users account. One issue we noticed with this was that once
you set the ‘safety code’ a copy of the actual 4-digit code was then emailed to
your registered email address which in itself could become a concern if the
email account associated with the account was ever to be breached.
Within the safety
features users also have the ability to set and adjust the ‘Language Filters’
from very low to very high and also turn on an option in which they can only
receive ‘Tells’ (messages) from registered users. The app does also give users further control
to increase filter levers covering;
- Sexual Harassment
- Spam Level
Users of Tellonym
also have the ability to block users by tapping on the 3 dots on a user profile
as well as reporting the user for the following;
If a user finds
something they deem inappropriate on the platform they can report it. This is done by simply tapping on the 3 dots
to the right of the message. An option will appear on screen:
- Share – this allows the ‘Tell’ message
to be shared further – for example via WhatsApp, Text, Facebook or Twitter.
- Report – The user will be presented with 2 further
options asking them what they want to report. The Tell or the Answer can then
be presented with a further series of options and the question ‘Tell us why you
think this content is not appropriate’.
At this stage the
options for reporting include:
- Hate Speech or –Symbols
- Harassing and/or abusive
- Contains Private Information
- Self-Injury requested
- Contains a treat
What else do Parents need to know?
There are a number
of concerning aspects for Parents:
- Setting up an account is relatively
easy and it’s easy to use fake information eg regarding age
- Once the account is set up it’s
straightforward to search for users. For
example, if you set your set your age as 18 you have the ability to search for
users aged 13-19. Age can also be
changed easily from within the ‘edit profile option’.
- Profiles have the option of displaying
actual age as well as other information such as Instagram and Snapchat
profiles. All another user or stranger would have to do is tap on them to be taken
to your other social media accounts.
- Many users have detailed personal
information on these profiles eg openly
identifying where they live and where they go to school
With this app,
like other similar apps we’ve reviewed, which allow users the ability to post
and respond to messages anonymously, there is the potential for them to be
mis-used. They can end up being used
negatively to cyberbully, harass and cause hurt and distress to others. Tellonym is just another in a long line of apps
like Afterschool, Whisper, Ask.fm and Sarahah which will continue to be of
concern for parents.
some reviews by parents on Common Sense Media:
My daughter has
this app and it is nothing but a platform for bullying. I wish that I could
give zero stars. Also wish I could post a screenshot of the threatening
messages my daughter received’.
could give it 0 stars I would. It’s a platform for bullies, cowards and trolls.
Being anonymous lends itself to the cruel west of worlds with no consequences.
If your kid has the app, it’s in your best interest to check it daily or delete
Media, a pragmatic no-nonsense media reviewing source, we recommend highly to
schools, has this piece of advice
‘With online anonymity increasing the likelihood
of callousness and cruelty, anonymous messaging is a questionable concept at
best, especially for kids. Though there’s some potential for fun in guessing
who’s messaging you — the app store’s tagline reads “See who likes
you” — there’s just as much potential for finding out who doesn’t. Users
in app store reviews report being harassed repeatedly, told they’re ugly, and
that they should “kill themselves.”
‘And though Tellonym claims its simple text-based approach
and in-house monitoring reduce the possibility of cyberbullying, the app’s
ability to link to more diverse social media apps like Snapchat and Twitter
more or less cancel out that claim. With two million registered users and the
promise of anonymity, Tellonym is an obvious temptation for shy kids and teens;
unfortunately, the app’s potential for encouraging meanness and clique-ishness
make it the last kind of app kids should use’.
Wayne Denner is a speaker, author and expert on Online Reputation and Wellbeing. Wayne helps young people protect and improve their digital presence. Visit waynedenner.com for more information.