Wondering whether or not to let your teen use WhatsApp? Find out more about the app to help you make up your mind…
What Is WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is a free app owned by Facebook. The app allows users to send and receive messages through an internet connection. This is a huge bonus for teenagers because they can still communicate with friends, even when they don’t have any credit on their mobile.
As well as messages, you can also send photos, emojis and voice notes. These voice notes are particularly popular with teenagers who will record what they want to say and send it to their friends, rather than go to the bother of physically typing out a message (!). Every user must verify their account with their mobile number to begin using the app.
Is It Safe For Teens?
The minimum age requirement for users is 16, which is similar to many other social media apps. As with other platforms, most teens choose to ignore this and sign up for an account when they’re younger than 16.
The app allows users to chat to a friend in a very similar way to texting. You can add and store contacts, much as you would on your mobile phone’s contacts’ section. To add someone on WhatsApp, you need to know their mobile phone number first. This reduces the risk of your teen adding strangers or being added by someone they’ve never met at random. A person with ill-intentions would have to know your teen’s number before being able to add and then communicate with them.
Are WhatsApp Group Chats Safe?
Group chats are pretty self-explanatory – they are a group of people all within the same chat. Anyone can set up a group chat and can add members but, again, they would have to know the individuals’ phone numbers or already have them as a contact.
This does, however, raise the issue of your child being added to a group chat with some people they might not know. For example:Ben creates a group chat called Footie Squad to talk all things football with his mates. He adds Luke and Blair, his two best mates who play alongside him in his local football team. Ben then adds a girl he knows from another town who he met through a family friend and knows is mad on football. Let’s call her Cerys. Now, Cerys and Ben know each other, but Ben’s two mates from the team have never met her before.
Talk to your child about the possibility of being added to group chats with people they might not have met in real life. While the majority of people your teen might meet in this way have no sinister motives, your teen should be aware of how to stay safe online. Read our guide here for more tips.
Group chats can host as many as 256 members. All messages and images sent on a group chat can be seen by every member of the group. This opens up the likelihood of your child seeing something that they might not want to see or being a witness to cyberbullying. However, if your teen ever feels uncomfortable within a group chat, there is a simple option to ‘Exit Group’.
Similar to messenger, you can also call on WhatsApp. You can call one contact directly or place a group call to those who are in your group chat.
Setting your WhatsApp Status is similar to Instagram or Facebook stories. The image or video posted will remain on the status for 24 hours. Your teen can amend who is able to see their WhatsApp Status in the ‘Settings’ tab.
Is WhatsApp Safe For Privacy?
As far as apps go, WhatsApp is pretty tight on security and privacy. You can set your account to ensure your profile is only seen by your contacts or by ‘Nobody’. This can be reassuring for parents, especially if your teen is younger. You can also easily block people if you need to and can manage those you have blocked within the ‘Settings’ tab. A blocked user will not be able to see your content and your teen will not be able to see theirs. If, for whatever reason, your teen wants to permanently remove a contact from WhatsApp, they will have to remove their contact details from their mobile phone first.
Here’s the biggie: WhatsApp has end-to-end encryption. You may have heard this term before and wondered what it meant. Put simply, it means that every single communication on WhatsApp can only be accessed by those who have sent and received them. WhatsApp itself cannot access the messages. End-to-end encryption is a double-edged sword… while it arguably makes your teen’s privacy as safe as houses, it does also make it harder to track down evidence of any wrongdoings, such as cyberbullying. In fact, you may have heard of occasions when this has caused police great difficulty in tracking perpetrators of crimes because they cannot access their messages and chats on WhatsApp.
You can report issues to WhatsApp, although it’s important to contact the police if your teen believes they or someone else is at risk. Users must take screenshots of any offending text, images or videos and attach it to the report as WhatsApp are unable to access any messages, due to the end-to-end encryption.
To Join Or Not To Join? Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons before making your decision on whether or not you feel comfortable with your child having a WhatsApp account. Some parents find it reassuring to set up the account with their child, to make sure security and privacy settings are in place. It can really put your mind at ease to know that their account is as safe as it can be.
How Safe Is WhatsApp?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons before making your decision on whether or not you feel comfortable with your child having a WhatsApp account. Some parents find it reassuring to set up the account with their child, to make sure security and privacy settings are in place. It can really put your mind at ease to know that their account is as safe as it can be.
What age do you have to be to use WhatsApp?
The minimum age for using WhatsApp is 16. However, a child younger than 16 would be able to sign up using a false date of birth so be aware that your child could already be using the app without your knowledge.
Does WhatsApp Have Parental Controls?
WhatsApp does not have parental controls but there are several privacy settings you can adjust to help keep your child safe. You can block unwanted contacts, turn off ‘Live Location’ and much more in the settings section of the app to achieve the level of security you want for your child and their information. For more help with security settings, click here. https://faq.whatsapp.com/general/security-and-privacy/
Can You Get Scammed On WhatsApp?
Scammers target WhatsApp users in an attempt to hijack their account. A recent scam is sending a text message while posing as a friend and asking for the person’s security code in order to gain access to their account. Talk to your teen to make them aware of this scam. WhatsApp recommends never handing over your security code to anyone, even if they appear to be a friend. Another common fraud by scammers is to portray themselves as a package delivery company with links encouraging the victim to make a payment. Talk to your teen about suspicious links and encourage them to ignore, report and block these types of messages.