WhatsApp privacy settings

Controls & Settings guide

WhatsApp is available on smartphone and through WhatsApp Web. Users must be 13 or older in the UK, which reduced from 16 in 2024.

WhatsApp’s privacy settings allow you to restrict who can see your child’s messages and location. There are also ways to block delete or report users on the platform to promote internet safety and risk management.

Whatsapp logo

What do I need?

A WhatsApp account

icon Chatting
icon Downloading file sharing
icon Location sharing
icon Privacy
icon Privacy and identity theft

Step by Step instructions


How to manage your privacy

Help your teenager take control of internet safety by teaching them about privacy settings. They can control who can see their information, which can help support their wellbeing.

To manage privacy settings:

Step 1 – In the app, tap the 3 dots in the top corner. Then tap Settings > Account > Privacy.
Step 2 – Customise who can see information about you on this menu. Tap on the relevant settings to customise them.

Last seen online

You can manage who can see your last activity time. Turning this off may reduce people pressuring your child to respond quickly or at inappropriate times.

Profile photo

If your child sets their profile picture of themselves, make sure they limit those who can see it to My contacts only. Alternatively, suggest an avatar or other image that doesn’t show their actual likeness.


Regardless of who your child shares their About information with, ensure that they have not included anything personal or private to reduce risks of identity theft.


If your child sets their status regularly, encourage them to limit it to contacts only. Additionally, remind them to keep location and other private information out of these updates.

Read receipts

When you send a message, you can see ticks that indicate whether a message was read (blue ticks) unless the recipient turned this off. You can turn this off as well, but you will not be able to see read receipts for anyone else. This removes the pressure to respond right away.

You can set these features to Everyone, My contacts, My contacts except… and Nobody:


How to block and report contacts

If a contact is making your child uncomfortable, encourage them to block and report them. They can stop receiving messages, calls and status updates with the block feature. If reported, WhatsApp will review the last 5 messages sent by the contact.

To block someone:

Step 1 – Tap the last message in their chat history with the contact. In the message, tap on their name or the 3 dots in the right corner > View contact.
Step 2 – Scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Block [Contact Name]. Confirm by tapping Block.

To report someone:

Step 1 – Tap the last message in their chat history with the contact. In the message, tap on their name or the 3 dots in the right corner > View contact.
Step 2 – Scroll to the bottom of the screen and tap Report [Contact Name]. If your child needs to keep the messages as evidence for police reporting, untick Block contact and delete chat. Otherwise, keep it ticked and tap Report.


Change group privacy settings

If your child uses private groups in WhatsApp, remind them that they should only be joining groups with people they know from school or clubs. They should not add people they meet online.

They can manage who has the ability to add them.

To manage this:

Step 1 – From the main screen, tap the 3 dots in the right corner and then Settings.
Step 2 – Go to Privacy and scroll down to Groups. Tap on it and set to My contacts or My contacts except….

Note: your child can still be invited privately. This only stops automatic adds.


Where to disable automatic downloads

The default settings for WhatsApp is that photos and videos you receive are automatically saved to your camera roll.

To limit the risk of saving inappropriate content sent without permission and to manage device storage, you can disable this.

To disable automatic downloads:

Step 1 – Go to WhatsApp Settings then tap Chats.
Step 2 – Next to Media visibility, tap the toggle. When grey, photos and videos will not be automatically saved to your child’s device.


How to enable Screen or Fingerprint Lock

Whether you’re on iPhone or Android, you can use different features to unlock WhatsApp, adding a layer of internet safety.

Note: Face and Touch ID are available on iPhone while Android uses Fingerprint lock. They can all be set up in the same way.

To set this up:

Step 1 – Go to Settings > Privacy. Scroll to the bottom of the screen.
Step 2 – Select Fingerprint Lock or Screen Lock. Tap the relevant toggle to enable.


Where ot disable live location

Live location is automatically turned off, and it’s a good idea to keep this turned off.

To turn off location on your device:

Step 1 – Go to your device Settings, then scroll down to WhatsApp. Tap this then tap Location. To turn off location, select the Never or Ask Next Time option.

To turn off location in the WhatsApp app:

Step 1 – From Settings, tap Privacy and Live Location. Manage the individual settings here or turn off entirely through device settings.


What is WhatsApp Web?

WhatsApp Web lets users chat through a browser instead of the app. However, users must have an app account to access WhatsApp Web.

To set up WhatsApp Web:

Step 1 – From the chat list screen in the app, tap the 3 dots in the top right. Tap Linked devices.
Step 2 – With your other device, open a browser and go to web.whatsapp.com.
Step 3 – With your smartphone, tap Link a device. Point the phone at the QR code on your other device. This will sync the app to WhatsApp Web.

With WhatsApp Web, you can continue sending messages without your phone needing to stay connected to the internet. It has limited features, so you cannot call others like you can with the app.