What is Whisper & Is It Safe for Kids?

by Screen Time Team on 23/12/2020

Whisper, a social media app, may be a point of serious concern for parents considering what apps to allow with parental control software. Anonymity has two sides on the internet. On the positive side, it lets people ask questions, present concerns, and otherwise interact with others with a feeling of comfort and safety. On the negative, it means that cyberbullying, online grooming, and other dangers are harder to deal with.

Whisper: What Parents Should Know

  • Whisper, according to its creators, is designed for users to share “real thoughts and feelings, forge relationships and engage in conversations on an endless variety of topics-without identities or profiles”
  • Whisper posts are text overlaid on a picture. These are called “secrets” by Whisper but can be anything.
  • Users are theoretically anonymous and can comment anonymously or privately in a quasi-anonymous fashion.
  • Users can view whispers from other users by browsing Groups, Popular, Latest, or Nearby posts. 
  • It claims 250 million monthly users.
  • You must be 13 or older to use Whisper under their terms of service.

Is Whisper Anonymous?

Whisper has been repeatedly accused of not being as anonymous as it claims to be. First of all, the app collects certain types of data, such as your geolocation, and requests access to features of your phone, such as the camera. It’s legally required to collect this data, yet Whisper only discussed this when pressed, and its marketing materials don’t openly acknowledge this reality.

This means users are easy to find when necessary. A girl who issued a threat to her school on Whisper in 2015 was tracked down using information from the app, and a Canadian man was arrested for luring a teenager to meet him at a location through Whisper. These incidents demonstrate both the dark side of anonymity online and that Whisper isn’t as anonymous as it claims.

The company also has issues regarding protection of user data. In March 2020, the Washington Post discovered that the company had accidentally left a database of user posts and other information available online without a password. This doesn’t seem to have been done nefariously; it appears the company simply failed to properly configure the database. Yet it should give parents pause and will probably make Whisper a no-go on your parental control software.

Video chat.

What are the Dangers of Using Whisper?

Parents have a right to be skeptical about Whisper, and you should proceed with caution if your child is using this anonymous app. Some of the safety concerns with this app include: 

  • Users can join Groups relevant to their hometown or school which may indirectly disclose their location/identity
  • There is a strong chance of encountering sexual or otherwise inappropriate content on the app
  • The Whisper app is conducive to cyberbullying due to the anonymous nature of the app 
  • Anyone can pose as a teenager on the app due to the lack of age verification, including online predators or scammers
  • The anonymous nature of the app may also cause teens to post thoughts they would not typically share
  • Users can lock their content behind password protection, making it difficult for parents to monitor their child’s activity on the app

Is the Whisper App Safe for Kids/Teens

Teens need personal spaces, both physical and emotional, to grow into healthy adults. Some of those spaces may be online, but Whisper probably shouldn’t be one. Your teen needs to understand why.This may be a difficult conversation, of course, but safety should be the primary focus:

  • Talk to your teen about why they want to use Whisper. Are their friends using it? Do they find it funny? Do they just want to snoop? You may need to have a conversation about privacy and not mocking others online, in many cases.
  • Have a discussion about the risks of the app and the concerns it raises. Lay out the issues surrounding anonymity on Whisper and your concerns.
  • Discuss other options they can pursue to discuss issues they want to keep private. It may be healthier for them to talk to a counselor online than it is to seek out spaces like Whisper.

Use Parental Controls to Block/Limit Your Child’s Access to Whisper

Parental control software can help you keep teens from dangerous places online. Apps like Screen Time allow you to block or limit certain apps, including Whisper, to prevent your teen from dangerous interactions online. To learn more about Screen Time, try it for free!

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