Online Sense is ICDL Arabia's philanthropic arm aimed at raising public awareness on Cyber Safety.

Let’s face the facts: most kids don’t spend a whole lot of time on Facebook and Twitter anymore. We know this because people don’t want their information shared with the entire world.

Self-destructing messaging apps with end-to-end encryption are taking over; these are apps that automatically destruct messages when the receiver reads them and/or sets a limit for how long the receiver can see a message before it gets deleted. Both kids and young adults use them to prevent certain people (i.e. parents, and future employers, etc.) from seeing things in their chat histories.

These apps are dangerous in their own ways. Some of them aren’t as private as they say they are, while others might be too powerful for their own good. We chose the 6 that give you the most variety in their usage and the ones we can all learn from the most.

So without any further ado, here are 6 self-destructing messaging apps your kid might have on their phone.

1. Snapchat

We’ve all heard of Snapchat. (It is the ultimate self-destructing messaging app.)

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media platforms in the world and is by far the most well-known self-destructing messaging app out there. It’s so well-liked within the younger generations that, in 2016, Snapchat surpassed Facebook’s number of video views per day (10 billion vs. 8 billion).

It attained its popularity once people learned they had the option to share videos and photos in a ‘safe’ online environment with all kinds of lenses and face effects. You can set timers for these photos and videos to self-destruct once the person received it.

This allows teens and young adults to share goofy or embarrassing photos without the risk of them going public.

Learn more about Snapchat in their video:

Important Notes for Adults:

  • Very few non-Snapchat users know this, but Snapchat also gives you the ability to send text messages. However, they do not get destructed the moment they are read.
  • In the early days of Snapchat, Snapchat has been associated with sexting. Because of its perception of being safe to post anything, both teens and adults share inappropriate images and videos of themselves.
  • Online trolls use Snapchat often. Since the messages disappear after a few seconds, it is more difficult to provide evidence against cyberbullies. (You can save the snap by taking a screenshot of the photo or video, but it will notify the cyberbully if someone does so.)

2. Telegram

In a nutshell, Telegram is WhatsApp with the ability to self-destruct messages.

There are a number of cool features you can use in the app. Its features includes a Secret chats section. This part of the app includes a self-destruct timer, which basically gives recipients a limited amount of time to read the message. To use the timer, click the three-dotted button in a secret chat and tap ‘Set self-destruct timer.’ All the message you send afterwards will be received and self-destructed in that amount of time once the recipient opens the message.


Important Notes for Adults:

  • Several reporters have written about how extremists use Telegram to spread propaganda, as well as plan and coordinate terrorist attacks. They provide a much more discreet messaging service than Twitter (although Twitter deleted over 235,000 extremist accounts, as of 2016).
  • One of the reasons why Telegram is popular for online radicalization purposes is because they are hard to track by the government. Not only does the app send encrypted messages, but Telegram users also get the option to self-destruct their accounts.

3. Wickr

Wickr is a private messenger worth discussing… for good reason.

In one of their YouTube videos, they mention how end-to-end encryption is important, but it doesn’t tell the full story. The real challenge is to distribute the user’s encryption key securely; an encryption key is what turns the data in your text message into an unreadable text, making it impossible for the human brain to understand.

Wickr has not one, not two, but five different encryption keys for every message you send. It goes above and beyond limits by not only encrypting the message, but by adding more layers so that the sender knows that the recipient is the only person to decrypt the message.

In cryptography, this is called perfect forward secrecy. No one will be able to surveil the messages you send: not the FBI, not the NSA, not even Wickr themselves!

Check out the video below:

Important Notes for Adults

  • This is one of the more powerful self-destructive online applications. According the co-founder and CEO of Wicker, Nico Sell, spies use this and human rights activists use it to fight against dictators all around the world. Think about what that means for your child if they were to talk to people they didn’t know.
  • Nico Sell does not have any pictures on Google or Facebook. She always wears big sunglasses during TV interviews as a way to decrease her digital footprint. It’s her way of making conscious decisions about online privacy.

4. Cover Me

Cover Me is another cool self-destructing messaging app, for one main reason. Rather than letting the app or the sender decide when to delete the message from the recipient’s phone, the app lets the receiver delete the messages.

You can even recall them if they haven’t been read, similar to recalling an email that you sent to someone by mistake.

Important Note for Adults:

  • Out of all the self-destructing messaging apps out there, CoverMe gives you the opportunity to locate intruders the best. If your smartphone’s front camera works, CoverMe will capture an image of the intruder. The GPS location where the intrusion happened will also be recorded.


5. SpeakOn

SpeakOn’s self-destruction techniques are the same as the ones above. You can delete messages automatically, you can set timers for when to destruct the messages, etc.

But there’s more!

For one, SpeakOn’s chat application has an Automatic Translation feature; it supports over 90 languages. Even if you’re not interested in the self-destruction part of the application, if you cannot speak Arabic, this application can communicate with locals in the Arab World.

Important Note for Adults

  • This app allows people to easily communicate with the world without complications. However, that also makes it easier for people to chat with online predators.
  • SpeakOn says nothing about end-to-end encryption. If you chat with someone on the app, how can you ensure the data won’t get leaked to someone else?


6. Bleep

Bleep is another one of those self-destructing messaging apps that stands out on its own because of its features. The most distinct one is its ability to allow users the option to log in through their mobile number, email or to go incognito.

So not only does the feature include end-to-end encryption, but you can also post anonymously.

As you can see in the video above, Bleep users have the option to send messages or to ‘whisper.’

Here’s the cool part:

If you whisper something to a friend, they will not be able to take a screenshot of the chat history. You can only do that if you message someone. (Notice in the image below that the person who’s texting you cannot be seen. It’s just the first initial.)

There’s also a third way to communicate on Bleep: phone calls! This part may remind some people of a Skype or Viber.

Important Note for Adults:

  • Unlike most messaging apps, Bleep does not even store messages or calls using cloud or Internet servers. It uses a peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing system. This would be a great, but…
  • There are a lot of bugs on Bleep. Plus, only Bleep says that the app is fully secure. Until an independent party audits Bleep, we only have BitTorrent’s word that the encryption is properly configured and implemented. (BitTorrent created Bleep, so it’s probably biased.)


BONUS: Whisper

We mentioned ‘whispers’ when we talked about Bleep.

Don’t confuse this with the Whisper app.

If you’ve heard of Whisper before, you may be wondering why it wasn’t on this list.

Well, unfortunately, this list was about self-destructing messaging apps. (Whisper is definitely an app worth talking about

Just in case you need a summary, though:

According to Common Sense Media, Whisper is a social ‘confessional’ app. It allows users to post whatever’s on their minds anonymously. Whisper displays the text and automatically retrieves an image from their own search engine; a user can manually upload one of their own if they like.

Whisper gets a lot of attention specifically because it provides an outlet for teenagers. It gives them the freedom to share their feelings (among other things) without fear of judgment.

Important Note for Adults:

  • Whispers are often sexual in nature. Many whisperers use the app to ‘hook up’ with people.
  • Although it is anonymous in the beginning, many Whisper users reveal their identity. As a matter of fact, the app has a ‘Meet Up’ section for users to exchange personal information.
  • There can be some controversial information on this app. Most people who use Whisper post confessions about what makes them feel insecure or depressed. Some example include lies they told their family or teachers, while other teens talk about their drug abuse.

Burn Note (January 2012-August 2016)

Burn Note was one of the emerging self-destructing messaging apps that erased messages after a set period of time. It started around the same time Snapchat did.

Unlike other apps, though, Burn Note limited itself to text messages. Users could not send pictures or videos.