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, a social media app, may be a point of serious concern for parents considering what apps to allow with parental control software.
Whisper: What Parents Should Know
- 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.
- 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.
Should I Let My Teen Use Whisper?
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.
- 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.
This may be a difficult conversation, of course, but safety should be the primary focus. Parental control software can help you keep teens from dangerous places online. To learn more about Screen Time, try it for free!