It will have come as a shock to many this week, to see a young 24-year-old Dublin woman charged with the defilement of a child, a teenage boy. This is something we have not really seen in Ireland up to now. A very young woman, who if convicted of the alleged offence, will be registered Sex Offender. The reported allegations involve a student from the school she worked in, who was under 17.
The use of Anonymity Apps are on the rise again, with Irish teens installing and using an App called Tellonym. From the outset #COTDAge are issuing a strong Cyber Safety Warning to parents, check younger children’s devices to see if they are using this App or, if they are receiving messages on their Social Media from their own contacts or other people using this App. It is also really important to discuss the use of this App with teens and young adults. We would strongly advise, both children and teens do not use this App.
Tellonym, initially launched in 2016, both as an App and a platform it is similar to Sarahah, which was known as the Honesty App. Saraha was removed due to concerns the App was being used to target and Cyberbully people. Tellonym permits it’s users to send messages to others whilst remaining anonymous. However, unlike Sarahah, upon receiving the anonymous messages you can choose to reply to the comments, which have been posted on the App.
This App currently boasts over 5 Million users and is available both on for Android and IOS devices. The App is being targeted at teens 16 years and older, however this is easily bypassed by selecting the Yes I am over 16 tab. Once signed in with an email address or your contact number, a user is invited to permit the App to access the devices contacts list. The App can also be linked to the users other Social Media platforms such as their Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram accounts. We would also have Privacy concerns for the Personal Data gathered by the App and its use.
The setup of the App is really simple and the navigation through the App is pretty basic. Once you create a profile you can search and follow other users, leave comments, or even just read comments which have been posted. The random content we viewed appeared to be interactions, which lead to the suggestion of moving to another platform and also requests to share sexualized imagery. For a parent, we suggest you install the App yourself and view the content. It will not make for pleasant reading. The App does not permit posting of images other than a profile picture, or imagery in the content feed.
While the developer’s web page does host advice for parents and has features such as reporting content, blocking users, reporting users, our main concern here is what people inevitably end up doing under the guise of being anonymous. While the App promotes itself as “The most honest place on the Internet”, users posting a question, then forwarded to their contacts who can answer the question anonymously, the user may not like the replies they receive. Given that children and teens afford access to themselves by accepting Friend and Follower requests from complete strangers, this enables strangers now to engage with children without even having to identify themselves.
We ask, why is there a need for a platform that permits a user to seek validation from others in this way? Essentially asking other people to judge and then comment on you anonymously. If people wish to post positive commentary, why would they need to hide who they are from the user the content is directed at? Parents also need to consider the amount of sexualized content on the App. The App affords anonymous access to a child, who could be groomed in to the exchange of explicit imagery or worse. There was considerable requests for the exchange of imagery on the pages we visited. An uncomfortable amount to be honest.
When people are afforded the ability to conceal their identity online, the comments and posts generated are generally not the most positive. This App is the perfect forum of targeting and harming young people through Cyberbullying and Online Sexual Exploitation. Already we have been made aware of a teen who has received horrific comments on this platform. Parents need to be aware of the Apps existence. For children and teens, are we would strongly recommend against the use of this App.
Today we would like to discuss, how harmful it can be for children to share inappropriate images of themselves, with others when using their devices. Incredibly we have found that children in Irish Primary Schools in 5th and 6th class, are very aware of this behaviour. What some children can believe is a just a funny image or photo of themselves, can have really serious long negative effects if shared with others.
What is Sexting ?
This video is aimed at young children to teach them what can happen if they were to take or share an inappropriate image and how quick it can spread
This is a series of videos aimed at teens
This series of videos are aimed at parents who discover an image of their child has been shared
This week, it was revealed that Blennerville National School, near Tralee in Co Kerry, agreed with parents in the school, that it was time to put a ban on digital device access for students. There had been a number of incidents revolving around the access and sharing of inappropriate content and Cyberbullying. The ban on devices at home, is an 11-week pilot programme. What we would describe as a Digital Detox, only for the children in sixth class. This decision is similar to one we have been promoting in National Schools for some time now that children should never be given a ‘Smartphone’. We had been anxiously waiting to see a community who would come together and formulate a plan such as this in Ireland. A first step on this path has been publicly taken by a school and parents. We would hope that all parents would look with great interest upon it, and follow-up and try this themselves.