≡ Menu

Can Your Phone Get a Virus From Texting? GKIS Parent Beginners Guide to Texting and Instant Messaging (IM)


blog-37-spaceinvadersI intended for today’s blog to be a quick one until I myself became confused about the differences between texting and instant messaging. Then I started wondering if my iPhone could contract a virus from texting! And the rest is included in today’s GKIS beginners guide to texting and instant messaging.


Texting = brief, electronic messages sent between individuals or groups of people through portable screen media devices over a phone network. Your text contact handle is your mobile phone number.

  • Texting typically also allows transmission of images, videos, and sound content, also called MMS messages (multimedia messaging service).
  • You can text from your computer by installing an short message service (SMS) app.
  • The first commercial texting was offered in 1994. Today, 91% of adult Americans own a cell phone and 81% of those users text (Pew Research, 2013).
  • Currently, mobile phone viruses are rare (but on the rise) and occur almost exclusively from phones running the Symbian operating system.
    • Technically, a mobile phone can be infected by accepting maliciously baited texts, through Bluetooth connections, or from downloading from the Internet or connecting to a computer. Infected files are typically disguised as applications like games, security patches, and pornography.
    • Currently there are no reported viruses that auto-install, meaning you must agree to install program to be infected. Keep in mind they are disguised to be something you want!
    • To be safe, it’s best to only download apps from reputable sources. If you are concerned that you downloaded malware, there are antivirus scanning programs on the market.
    • Apple, Microsoft, and Research in Motion smartphones are less targeted.
  • Advertisers have figured out how to use bulk texting to attract buyers.
  • Medical offices now use texting to send reminders.
  • Texting can also be used to remotely control appliances.
  • Texting issues of concern include texting while driving or walking, sexting, cyberbullying, distraction, security, misrepresentation, and spamming.


Instant Messaging (IM) = a service that allows real-time text-based messages (chatting) between an individual or groups of people over the Internet. Simply type and SEND. To send an instant message, you typically need a username and password.

  • Using “push technology”, advanced IMing allows a user to also transfer files (like images and videos), hyperlinks (links you click on to take you to a website), voice over Internet protocol using microphones (IP) (like Skype and Google Talk), video chat (using microphones and webcams), and web conferencing (video calling and instant messaging).
  • Instant messaging is different from email because both users are usually “logged on” to the instant messaging service. However, many systems allow users to communicate even when they are not logged on, making them very similar to email.
  • Developed in the 1980s, instant messaging became popular in the 1990s through America Online (AOL). In 2010 various social media (FaceBook chat, Twitter) started offering IM capability.
  • Most popular social media have IM capacity (e.g., FaceBook, Instagram, Snapchat, Google+, LinkedIn).
  • The most popular instant messaging apps are WhatsApp, China’s WeChat, Viber, and Japan’s LINE. Many of these have privacy protection concerns because they don’t offer end-to-end encryption.

  • Black hat hackers have often used IM networks for phishing and delivering malware like viruses, computer worms, Trojan horses, and spyware.
  • A typical ploy used by malicious hackers is to send a socially engineered text (from a friend on your contact list) that directs the recipient to a poisonous URL. Once the recipient arrives to at that site, the cycle begins again when the same text is sent to everybody in their contact list to claim more victims.
  • Corporations typically have log-in and security features installed in their IM systems that allow tracking, archiving, and content scanning.
  • Media has reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) is tracking and archiving email and instant messaging content using metadata collection methods.

Chat rooms = online sites where users who are typically unknown to each other communicate via multicast (one-to-many) transmission. Often chat rooms offer IMing between users on a “buddy list” so they can instant message privately as well. Instant messaging from chat rooms is either transmitted peer-to-peer or client-server (messages go to a central server which then re-transmits the message to the client).


  • Both allow you to type messages to an individual or group of people in real time on handheld screen media devices and your computer
  • Internet slang or textspeak is commonly used when texting and instant messaging (e.g., LOL, BRB)


  • Texting is typically done on smartphones using cellular data. You can also text through the computer by downloading an app that allows the use of short message service (SMS) data.
  • You can text anyone who has service. However, you can only IM people who have that IM service.
  • You pay your phone provider for texting, whereas most instant messaging services are free. However, you do pay for the data use with instant messaging.

I hope that quick tutorial helps you become the tech expert in your home and furthers your journey to get your kids Internet safe.

I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetYourKidsInternetSafe.

Onward to More Awesome Parenting,

Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty

Works Cited


Photo Credits

Still Images From Space Invaders Animation by Jeff Keyzer, CC by-SA 2.0

Opt In Image
Get your free report
"3 Powerfully Effective Ways to Get Your Kids Internet Safe"

Don't worry, we will never spam you.

0 comments… add one

Leave a Comment

Show Buttons
Hide Buttons