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Signal

Signal is a messaging app similar to WhatsApp that lets you chat one to one and in group chats with your phone contacts via text, audio and video call. You can also share images, videos and files. All communication made through the app is end-to-end encrypted.

13+

Official age rating

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Our safety ratings

Overall safety rating:

Our overall rating for Signal

Poor

Signal is rated 13+ but they do not ask users to verify their age. There are also no parental controls available. Be aware, Signal is end-to-end encrypted, meaning only the sender and recipient can see the message. This makes it hard to report inappropriate behaviour on the app.

There are also some other features you should watch out for:

Disappearing messages –you can send messages that disappear after a set period of time.
Invite links – you can invite someone to join a chat via a link instead of using a mobile number.
Group chats – you can have group chats with up to 1,000 people.
Sealed sender – hides the identity of the sender.

Safety features

There are no parental controls or additional safety features available on the app. Signal has an age rating of 13+ but as there is no age verification it is easy for younger users to sign up.

On Signal you can only speak to people who are on your contact list or have your mobile number. You should remind your child to never share their mobile number with anyone they don’t know and to talk to you first if they want to add a new contact.

Privacy & location

Signal has a feature that lets users share their real-time location. Make sure to switch off location sharing on your child’s device so they can’t do this.

There is no way to make your profile private on Signal but only your contacts or people who have your number can see your name and profile picture. However, unlike WhatsApp, there are no privacy settings to stop you from being added to a group chat with people you don’t know. This means that if your child is added to a new group everyone in the group will be able to see their profile picture, number and name.

Signal is end-to-end encrypted meaning communications can only be seen by the sender and recipient. All messages shared between people on your contact list are sent using an additional privacy feature called ‘sealed sender.’ This hides the sender’s identity and the app does not record or store their data. While this is good for individual privacy, it makes it really hard to report inappropriate behaviour and abuse online.


Read Signal’s privacy policy here.

Reporting & blocking

You can easily block other users on Signal. When you block someone on Signal the other person won't be able to see your profile, if you are in a group chat with the person you have blocked you will not be able to see their messages or name.

There is no reporting tool.

Content

We didn't come across any inappropriate content on Signal. However, there is a chance your child could be sent something upsetting by someone who has their number. Make sure to talk to your child regularly about who they’re talking to and remind them to never click a link sent to them from someone they don’t know.

Top tips

Sitting down with your child and exploring Signal together is a great way for you to learn more about why they might like to use it.

This will give you an opportunity to set some rules around who they can talk to on the app and explore some of the different features available.

You might also want to check out our article Talking to people online for tips on how to speak to your child about chat apps.

Your child might receive upsetting or negative messages from other users on Signal. If this happens, they might want to block them.

To block another user:
1. Tap on the name of the contact or user you wish to block.
2. Select ‘Block’ and then ‘Confirm.’

Take the time to explore this with your child, discussing when and why they might want to block somebody.

And remember to let your child know that they can always talk to you about anything they see online. 

Sometimes children can feel pressure to always be online and respond to messages straight away. To help with this, you should encourage them to turn off read receipts so people can’t see when they’ve read a message.

Read receipts are switched on by default but can be turned off by:

1. Tapping the settings icon on the left-hand corner of the screen.
2. Selecting ‘Privacy’.
3. Tapping ‘Read Receipts’ so the switch is black. If the switch is blue it means the setting is enabled.

You should also encourage them to mute chats if they’re getting lots of notifications and feel overwhelmed. There are different ways to do this depending on the device you’re using, so check out In-App Notification Options for more information.

As Signal is a messaging app, it’s important to talk to your child about what they’re sharing. You can video call and share images, videos, audio and files on the app. Sit down together and look at some of the communication features available and agree some rules around which ones they can use.

You could even create a test chat with them to try them out, and use it as an opportunity to talk about what they should and shouldn’t share.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:
• personal information, like names, emails, phone numbers, location and school names
• other people's personal information
• links to join private group chats
• photos of themselves
• photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

On Signal you can be added to group chats with up to 1,000 people. There are different types of group chats available depending on the device you’re using. You can read more about this on Signal’s website here.

Make sure to talk to your child about who they’re talking to and remind them they should only be speaking to people they know offline, like friends from school.

If they’re added to a group chat with people they don’t know, tell them to block the chat and come and tell you.

If your child sees something online that upsets or worries them it’s important that you both know where you can get further support.

If you’re worried about your child or need advice you might want to call the NSPCC helpline on 0808 800 5000.

Encourage your child to look at the Childline website, which has a range of great advice articles:

• Feeling good on social media
• Coping with stress
• Worries about the world

Childline’s Calm zone is also packed with tools and activities to help your child de-stress and discover news techniques that can support them when they’re feeling down. Young people can also talk about their worries with others on the Childline message boards.

O2 Guru top tip

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Show your child how to block

Make sure ‘Allow from anyone’ is switched off to stop your child from receiving messages from people they don’t know using ‘sealed sender’.

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Further advice

Should you be worried about your child talking to people online? Check out our article Talking to people online: When should I be worried? for tips and advice. 

 

More and more young people are sharing videos and images online. Explore our article Sharing images and videos online for tips on how to talk to your child about what is and isn't appropriate to post. 

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