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Tellonym: the anonymous app that’s gripping our teens

Every now and again an app comes along that grabs teen imaginations and then runs riot on their phones. Tellonym is one of these. With reportedly more than a million daily users, if your teen isn’t already using it they will certainly be able to tell you all about classmates who are.

Rated 17+ (which really ought to be a big clue that it’s not for younger teens), the app is basically a slick question-and-answer format, where users interact by posting and answering questions anonymously. There are many such apps available at the moment, and all carry a high risk of sexualised chat, drugs talk and abusive language, especially if the app’s filters are not set properly. Because Tellonym encourages people to ask and answer questions anonymously, there's also a high potential for cyberbullying and online abuse.

A quick glance at the reviews by parents on Common Sense Media paints a grim picture. Many parents report distraught children who are being bullied or harrassed, with one posting that the app is ‘heaven for trolls who want to post the most vile, graphically violent, racist, misogynistic and sexual messages imaginable. Some messages seem to be taunting users to consider suicide.’

The app makers claim that their creation is a way to ‘bring you closer to your friends’. It is hard to see, though, in a world of social media, why the idea of anonymity should be any kind of aid to deepening friendships. Breck Foundation steers away from telling children not to engage in particular games or apps, instead providing them with the tools they need to be resilient and protect themselves, but in cases such as Tellonym we do think it important to talk to your child (if they are using it) to see whether they are being affected by any kind of negative interaction. Particularly as we enter lockdown 2, young people’s sense of anxiety and vulnerability may already be running high.

Tellonym itself claims to use an algorithm that filters out abusive words and also offers a ‘custom’ filter to block messages containing specific words. You can block users from interacting with you, and you can report any offensive or upsetting messages. They also use a team of moderators. Do be aware that the app can be linked to Instagram, Snapchat and other social media platforms, all of which increases the chances of strangers contacting your teen.

Is your teen using Tellonym? How are you making sure they stay safe? Let us know!

Sarah Smith

Foundation Speaker


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