Cyber Safe Kids – Private Messaging within Any App

We have been reminded many times in the recent past that the risks associated with ANY app that contains a private messaging feature.

What is a Private Message (PM)?

PM, short for Private Message, is a feature in any app that allows for 1 on 1 direct communication between two people.  It can sometimes be referred to as IM (Instant message) or DM (Discreet Message) as well.  Think like an SMS between two people.  It is opposed to a post on a wall on something like Facebook or Instagram where all of your friends/followers can see.

What Apps have this ability?

Many. This feature is not just limited to social media apps such as Instagram and Facebook, but is integrated into many apps including many games that are in themselves harmless, a few that come to mind are Roblox, Minecraft, Fortnite and Among Us as well as embedded into consoles such as Xbox and Playstation.

What are the risks?

Sadly, the risks are extreme.  They start at the lower level of Cyber Bullying where two children physically known to each other go home after the school day and bully each other from the safety of their keyboard and flow through to a complete stranger contacting a child on a PM and grooming or abusing them.  In all cases it is very common that the perpetrator threatens the victim if they show the messages to anyone.

What can you do about it?

Firstly, it needs to begin with a conversation about children avoiding getting into this situation. Secondly, if they do find themselves in this situation that it is not only OK to report it, but highly advised that they do.  Once you become aware of this, screen shots of all of the information you can is a very good idea, send them to your device and get them off the childs. All of these apps should contain a feature to report and / or block the offender.  Both should be used where possible.

If you think this is of the more serious end of offending, taking the screen shots to police is a very good idea.

Don’t believe us? There are many, many articles sharing real world stories of this happening.  Take Carly Ryan for example, her story can be found on the Carly Ryan Foundation website.  Another article we have come across in recent times is from Safe on Social Media.

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