App Review – Tellonym

Remember Yik Yak and Sarahah the anonymous messaging services that were shut down following controversy around abuse and bullying by teens using them?

In 2016 Tellonym was launched with 13 million global users who can ask and answer questions about each other, anonymously. Sound familiar?

While the intention of the creators was to encourage open and honest conversation, experts, parents and schools are concerned that it is enabling cyberbullying and cruelty. The app claims to be ‘The most honest place on the internet’ with its name ‘Tellonym’ a play on ‘anonymous’ and ‘tell on him.’

The best intentions do not necessarily protect young users from the harm inflicted by their peers and this appears to be the case on Tellonym. While designed for older teens the terms of service aren’t consistent: In the App Store preview, it’s indicated that a teen must be at least 17 to download and yet,  in the company’s Terms of Use it states that the user must be at ‘least 13 years old. If you are under the age of 13, you must not access or use our Services’.

Like many apps being used by the under 13’s, this is impossible to enforce.

Common Sense Media explains how Tellnym works: ‘People can register using either an email or a phone number and can search for friends via phone contact lists. The app can be linked to Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat accounts, which means inappropriate messages can be accompanied by inappropriate visual content (images containing references to sex, drugs, violence, alcohol, or smoking).’

According to Tellonym ‘You will get hundreds of honest messages from your friends and find out what they think.’ REALLY think is the unspoken promise!

Once a profile is set up users anonymously leave ‘tells,’ or messages intended to ‘tell me what you think of me.’ If the user chooses to answer an anonymous ‘tell,’ the conversation will appear on their profile. Users can block and report people who send hurtful or harassing messages and can set a filter that recognizes words the user determines.

So what should parents do? Have a conversation with your child about whether they’ve heard about Tellonym, if they know anyone using it [including them] and what types experience the users can expect when using anonymous messaging services. Be aware of any changes in behaviour that may indicate your child is being harassed or bullied online and use the Family Insights App to help you do this.

The book ’The Parents’ Survival Guide to Children, Technology and the Internet’ also has a chapter devoted to Cyberbullying and Cyber Abuse which includes signs that your child is being cyberbullied as well as research-backed advice to help you tackle issues as a family.

Family Discussion Opportunities

What are some of the ways people about your age tease each other online?

What social media services can be used to do this?

Is it easier to be hurtful towards others online than in person?

What would you do if somebody was bullying you online? Who can you talk to?

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