Using a Wi-Fi connection or mobile data, WhatsApp is a cross-platform instant messaging service where you can make calls and send messages, images, and video. A phone number is required to have an account, and the app will check your contacts for other WhatsApp users to connect you automatically. One of the most appealing aspects of WhatsApp is that you can keep in touch with people who are traveling or living internationally without any message limits or fees. WhatsApp enables users to make messages disappear, send group messages, share status updates and GPS location with contacts.
There is no filter for inappropriate content—making it easy for children to be exposed to inappropriate content and share it with others.
- Disappearing messages can be easily enabled (after 24 hours, 7 days, or 90 days) or disabled, which makes it more difficult for parents to monitor.
- Screenshots can be used to save images or messages—even if disappearing messages is enabled.
Group chats currently allow up 1024 members to join.
- Cyberbullying and other forms of conflict can quickly explode.
- Any group member can share the group chat link, which allows strangers to join without any approval or vetting process. Getting added to a group with people someone doesn’t know can potentially expose children to predators and cyberbullying.
Anyone can create an account and choose their own username.
- Predators or others with harmful intentions can easily hide their identity using a fake username.
- Users often use secret code acronyms and slang to hide risky behavior.
WhatsApp has a positive reputation, but monitoring protections are still necessary to reduce risk and create a safer experience for youth. Parents can go to Settings > Account > Privacy to view “last seen” information and adjust other privacy settings. The platform also allows you to block other users without them knowing for sure they’ve been blocked. We strongly recommend disabling live GPS location sharing and educate children about the risks of revealing their location or other identifying information to strangers. Disappearing messages can also lull children into a false sense of security. Once something is sent, they lose control over who can view it. Even if a message was intended to be private, it can become public and permanent. In addition to regularly monitoring children’s activity and putting protections in place, we also encourage parents to have open communication about the dangers of communicating online and never meeting up in person with someone you don’t know. Remember, not everyone is who they say they are.
Want To Learn More?
For more information about WhatsApp and privacy settings, check out Bark’s How To Set Up WhatsApp Parental Controls guide. For more information about secret acronyms and current teen slang, check out FamilyZone and Bark for updated decoded terms.