WhatsApp safety: a how to guide for parents

By Internet Matters Team on

The second in our series of how to guides looks at the popular global instant messaging app, WhatsApp Messenger.

The application, available to download from the App and Play stores, averages over 800 million monthly users. The minimum age requirement to use the service is 16 years.

Whatsapp Infographic

How does WhatsApp work?

WhatsApp allows your child to send instant messages only to contacts that they have added to their WhatsApp account. Only people who have a WhatsApp account can send and receive messages through the app. Messages can be sent one to one or within a group conversation. For all messages sent WhatsApp sends “read receipts” to tell sender if the message was delivered, read, seen or played.

What information can be shared?

Last Seen
This is a timestamp that shows users the last time your child used their WhatsApp account.

Status Message
This can be customised to show what the person wants to share with his / her contacts.

Online
This tells your contacts if you are online. Note there is no way to hide online status from all users.

Remember: By default, WhatsApp will automatically set privacy settings to allow any WhatsApp user to view read, last seen messages and profile photo and status. If you don’t share your last seen information, you won’t be able to see other people’s last seen information.

How to manage information shared on WhatsApp

There are three settings to manage what information is shared:

Everyone
This option will show last seen, your profile photo and status to all users.

My contacts
Last seen, profile photo and status content will only be available to your child’s contacts from their address book.

Nobody
No content will be shown to any user. Please advise your child to change this setting to “My contacts” so that only their contacts are able to see this information. If you would like to stop sending “read receipts” you can untick this option in the App.

Remember: If you uncheck Read receipts, you will not send read receipts. You will also not be able to see other users’ read receipts.

Location sharing on WhatsApp

If this setting is switched on, any images and videos shared will also show the location of where they were taken on a map. Talk to your children about the importance of keeping this function switched off.

Managing the content your child can see on WhatsApp

To make sure your child only receives messages from people they trust they can block, delete or report users.

Delete or block users
Blocked users will not be able to contact you. Any updates to your status, profile image and last seen timestamps will not be shown. If you have blocked someone, they will not be notified but may still be able to work it out as your status message will no longer be displayed.

Please note that blocking will not remove the contact from the WhatsApp list nor will it remove you from the list on this contact’s phone. To delete a contact in WhatsApp you must delete the contact from your phone’s address book.

Reporting Spam
If you receive a message from an unknown contact you can Report spam and Block. This will report the user and add the user your Blocked list.

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