Is Telegram safe for kids? What families need to know

Children using Telegram


Chatty folk are spoiled for choice when it comes to instant messaging apps. WhatsApp is still the communication king, but Telegram is a popular alternative – especially for those who prioritize privacy and security.

Telegram’s comprehensive security features might explain how it’s attracted over 800 million active users and was the world’s 6th most downloaded app in 2023.

Although Telegram’s strong focus on privacy might sound like music to a parent’s ears, its features could expose your child to some serious online threats. 

What is Telegram?

Telegram was launched back in 2013 by Russian brothers Nikolai and Pavel Durov – but it wasn’t until 2021 that it became a major player in the messaging app space. Early in that year, WhatsApp updated its terms and conditions to include new rules on data sharing that caused many to seek a less intrusive messaging option. A few months later, on October 4, Facebook experienced a six-hour outage on all its platforms, including WhatsApp, sending a record 70 million users over to Telegram in one day.

The look and feel of Telegram might seem similar to WhatsApp and other messaging apps but it has several features that set it apart from the rest; two being the ability to create and join groups of up to 200,000 users and to share large files like movies and TV shows.

But it’s Telegram’s Secret Chat option, with features like end-to-end encryption and self-destructing messages, that has attracted waves of privacy-conscious users to the platform – and caused concern for parents worldwide. 


child using Telegram app


Is Telegram safe for kids?

Unlike other communication apps like Kik and Snapchat, Telegram isn’t designed to attract young users. Their terms of service indicate that users need to be 16+ to use the app but as we parents know, age restrictions do little to put off curious kids.

After using Telegram for a while, several aspects of the app concerned us as parents. 

Secret chats and self-destructing messages

A Telegram user can initiate a secret chat with a contact which makes the conversation end-to-end encrypted – ensuring that only the two parties can view the messages sent back and forth. 

Influenced by Snapchat’s disappearing messages, secret chats can be programmed to self-destruct, permanently deleting all the exchanged messages, photos, and videos when the pre-set timer runs out

Although these features are some of Telegram’s biggest selling points, they can also be blamed for putting young users at risk. End-to-end encryption and disappearing chats prevent parents from being able to access and view their child’s messages. While this may appeal to secretive teens, it makes it much harder to trace and record the activities of online predators, drug dealers, and other nefarious users.

Easy access to inappropriate content

Although posting pornographic content on publicly viewable channels is against Telegram’s terms of service, the platform has been scrutinized for its relaxed moderation. 

And, unfortunately for parents, pretty much anything flies in private groups and chats where young users can connect with strangers and be exposed to sexting, pornography, violence, and other inappropriate material. Telegram has even been named the “app of choice” for terrorists as groups use the app to share propaganda and recruit members. 

Anyone can search for and contact your child

Telegram users are identified by a username that can be searched for and cannot be hidden from search results – giving perfect strangers the chance to connect with and message your child.

You can, however, choose to reject messages from non-contacts and hide your phone number by changing your privacy settings.

Your child can be added to private groups

Similarly, if you haven’t adjusted Telegram’s privacy settings, your child can be added to private groups of up to 200,000 strangers who can access your child’s username, profile picture, and phone number. 

As well as the potential for serious threats like cyberbullying, and sexual predation, it’s in private groups where your child is most likely to be exposed to pornography and other inappropriate content

The spread of fake news

Whether via private messages or a group chat, communication apps like WhatsApp and Telegram make it all too easy to share fake and unchecked information. 

In recent years, fake news has become a major worry for parents as young minds can be particularly susceptible to misinformation. Fake news is usually created to push someone else’s agenda and if believed, can lead to changes in ideology, attitudes, and ultimately, behavior. Trusting unverified rumors can even be fatal.

If you’re concerned about your child’s exposure to misinformation, be sure to check out our article on how to teach your kids to spot fake news.

No parental controls

Because Telegram isn’t specifically targeted at children, it lacks parental control features that could otherwise prevent your child from being exposed to inappropriate content and other, more serious threats.

Adjusting your child’s settings can minimize some risks. For example, you can turn off location services, hide your child’s phone number and profile picture, and stop strangers from adding your child to groups. 

But this requires a certain amount of parental trust as your child can just change them back again. However, a comprehensive parental control app like Qustodio can fill this gap by helping you monitor and manage your child’s access to Telegram.

Telegram: Qustodio’s safety recommendation

Features like secret chats, self-destructing messages, searchable usernames, and unmoderated private groups, make Telegram an unsafe choice for young users. 

Telegram’s terms of service state that the app is for users 16+, but as users aren’t asked to verify their birthdates at sign-up, this is mostly guidance. 

Based on our experience with the app and talking to other parents, we don’t recommend the app for teens under 17.

If your older teen is using Telegram, here are a couple of tips for a safer experience. 

Change privacy settings

Adjusting Telegram’s default privacy settings can help make the app safer for your child. For example, you can hide your child’s profile picture, phone number, and Online/Last Seen status. You can also prevent strangers from searching for your child via a phone number and adding them to groups.

Changing privacy settings is better than nothing; but as your child can change them back whenever they want, it’s not a replacement for a good parental control app. 

Talk about it

We believe that having open discussions with children about their online habits is essential for a safe and healthy relationship with technology. Give your teen space to communicate about their experiences on Telegram and make sure they’re aware of the risks when chatting with strangers online.

We recommend having a digital family agreement to help you to talk about technology together.

Use parental controls

As Telegram doesn’t have built-in parental controls, and privacy settings can be changed by your child whenever they want, a parental control app like Qustodio is a popular option for concerned families. 

Qustodio can help safeguard your children from Telegram’s potential dangers by allowing you to:

  • Monitor the time they spend on the app 
  • Set time limits for its usage 
  • Block the app from being opened
  • Receive an alert when they first use the app
  • Pause the internet at the push of a button

Telegram is a popular messaging app that’s not meant for children. But as there’s no age verification process, young users can use the app and be exposed to cyberbullying, sexual predation, and other online dangers. Parents can alleviate the risks by adjusting the app’s privacy settings, or even better, using parental controls. 

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