Most people love a secret - but when it involves your children sharing them with strangers online would you feel differently?
Whisper is a ‘secret-sharing’ app with 1.44 million active users where users can anonymously share personal secrets to other people, and is available to anyone aged over 15 years. You can write a secret either to voice their joys or concerns to the world, or just share random thoughts. Users can browse through an openly public stream of images with secrets laid over them and respond publicly or privately to another person. Whisper actively encourages people to share their location, which is revealed whenever you click on a user to see their post, or alternatively you can see all the secrets within a small radius of your own location.
Don't get us wrong, there are are some really positive aspects of this app - it's a great place for teenagers to share their innermost thoughts without fear of repercussions, or to find other teens like them.
- Shyness doesn't matter - users don't reveal anything about themselves if they don't want to
- Cliques and popularity at school or socially is irrelevant - it's all anonymous
- It encourages teens to be creative and express themselves
- They have a range of privacy and security FAQ's including parental controls (which is actually just a guide on how to block your child from downloading apps, but hey, it's something)
- Teens can block users or flag them if they see something inappropriate
- The sheer amount of sexual conversations taking place on the app - it took us just a few minutes to find pornographic/inappropriate images and there are groups on Whisper who are just there for online sex. Check out the "school" group on Whisper - you'll be horrified.
- Whisper secrets can be shared on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr - whilst posts are anonymous, remember that Snapchat claims the same thing. Nothing is ever really a secret on the internet.
- Whilst user's don't have to use location services, Whisper does constantly remind users to activate it to see who is around them within a 5-10km radius. The majority of teens would see no issues with this at all - but predators delight in this kind of information and easily. A recent case in the US saw a 21 year old man use Whisper to convince a 12 year old girl to send him nude photos of herself, which led to a horrific outcome.
- Drug use and self harm images are also common themes amongst teens on Whisper, and easily found just by searching (or stumbling across)
What should parents look out for?
Firstly, check if your child has this app on their phone. If they do have it, we recommend having a conversation with them to find out why they like it and if they see any potential danger in using the app. Whilst Whisper opens the app up to children from 15 years, we strong recommend that no child under 18 years has access to this app. Your Family Zone settings recommended by our Cyber Experts will automatically block access to this app unless you change it.
Share this story with your kids and with other parents - understanding the positives and negatives of anything before you make a decision is key to gaining their trust and support.
If you're not already a subscriber with Family Zone, we recommend you start our one month free trial to see the benefits for yourself, especially when it comes to managing the access of your kids to apps like Whisper.