Teen sitting on the floor appearing sad.

Parental Guide to Tellonym for Teens

by Screen Time Team on 21/10/2020

The anonymity of the internet has both positives and negatives. Being able to create a private emotional space is important for everyone, and that’s something the internet has enabled. Unfortunately, it’s also opened the door to cyberbullying, even when something is launched with the best of intentions, and that includes Tellonym.

What Is Tellonym?

Tellonym (roughly translated as “to tell anonymously” in a mix of English and German) is an app that allows users to collect anonymous feedback, similar to competing app Sarahah. 

Users create a profile, which is just their username and potentially a photo, and anybody with the link can leave notes, whether solicited or unsolicited. It’s also “cross-platform,” so app users and browser users can interact. The idea is to create a personal suggestion box on the internet. If this sounds like a bad idea, well… that’s how it’s worked out.

Tellonym And Abuse

Tellonym has, by and large, shown why parental control software is popular. The app is most popular in Germany and has been fighting a rearguard action against cyberbullying, particularly among teenagers, almost from its inception. Among the points of concern:

  • The app was largely designed for adult professionals; the idea was and is that adults can anonymously get feedback about work and personal matters and deal with it appropriately. Tellonym was almost immediately discovered by teenagers, and then became a hotbed of abuse.
  • Profiles don’t require a name or an email address and leave no identifying information. While the app does collect some information to provide to authorities, day-to-day users are effectively out of luck if they’re hoping to identify a bully and confront them in real life.
  • Tellonym attempted to limit abusive language by creating a word-filter option. Users quickly figured out that transposing letters or intentionally misspelling abusive terms beat the filter.
  • Work is still being done to incorporate self-harm prevention tools and digital mobbing into the app, made more difficult by its anonymity.

None of this was difficult to predict, unfortunately. Anywhere there’s anonymity and a lack of consequences, especially with messaging apps, there’s going to be at least some cyberbullying. Fortunately, users have more control over what’s seen publicly, so they don’t have to share insults or cruel questions, and the site has implemented blocking tools, safety codes, and only allows messages from users who have registered in a way that’s more trackable. Yet problems remain.

Teen looking at her phone.

Should Kids Use Tellonym?

The app has improved somewhat, but problems remain. If what you’ve read so far is dismaying, then blocking Tellonym with parental control software should be your first step. If your children are older, then, if they want to use it, take the following steps.

  • Teach them the basics of cyberbullying, how to stop it, and how to avoid it.
  • Make sure they know they can speak with you about what happens online.
  • Set times for when they can access the app to limit “obsessing” over it, such as blocking it during homework time.
  • Be ready to delete it if you think there’s an issue.

Parental control software can help keep potentially abusive apps like Tellonym in check. To learn more, try it for free!

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Parental Guide to Tellonym for Teens
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Parental Guide to Tellonym for Teens
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Tellonym shows the downside of anonymity on the internet. Learn more about this anonymous feedback app.
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Screen Time
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