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WhatsApp is an instant messaging app which lets you send messages, images and videos in one-to-one and group chats with your contacts. You can choose to share your live location for up to eight hours with one contact or a group.


Official age rating

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Our safety ratings

Overall safety rating:

Our overall rating for WhatsApp


As WhatsApp has an age rating of 16+ there are no parental controls available. There are various privacy settings that can help keep your child safe such as managing who can see their profile picture and bio and who can add them to a group.

Be aware that WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted meaning that only the sender and recipient can see the contents of a message. This makes it harder to stop inappropriate behaviour.

If you decide to let your child use WhatsApp, you should make sure to explore all the privacy settings available and agree some rules around who they’re allowed to talk to on the app.


Safety features

There are no age verification or parental controls available on the app. To register you only required to share a mobile number.

WhatsApp has an age rating of 16+ but as there is no age verification it would be easy for a child with a phone to sign up for an account without permission.

WhatsApp is end-to-end encrypted meaning that only the sender and recipient can see the contents of a message. This makes it harder to stop inappropriate behaviour.

There are a large range of features within WhatsApp, such as sharing location (live and one-off), broadcasting your status, sharing contacts, customising wallpapers and personalising group names. They also recently introduced a ‘Disappearing Messages’ feature that if enabled automatically deletes messages after seven days.

Privacy & location

There are lots of privacy settings available on WhatsApp that you should explore with your child. These include managing who can see your bio and profile picture, who can see when you were last on the app, status visibility and who can add you to a group.

WhatsApp has a feature that lets users share their real-time location. Make sure to switch off location sharing on your child’s device so they can’t do this.

Reporting & blocking

It’s easy to report and block other people in 1:1 chats and group chats on WhatsApp. However, you can’t report specific pieces of content due to end-to-end encryption.

WhatsApp also has Community Guidelines which outlines to users how they should behave on the app.


There is no function on WhatsApp to report individual pieces of content, like an image or video. If your child is sent something inappropriate the only option is to block or report the user who sent it.

O2 Guru top tip


On WhatsApp privacy

If your child is receiving inappropriate messages, show them in settings how to block people they don't know from contacting them.

What you should know


You can have private or group chats


WhatsApp lets you have private chats or group chats with up to 256 people. In group chats, people can be invited to join by you or by others in the group, if you have admin rights. This means your child could be added into a group chat with people they don’t know.


It’s easy to add people you don’t know from group chats (or for them to add you). The tricky thing about group chats is that everyone in the chat can see your child’s phone number. Even people who they don’t know or have added to contacts, meaning anyone could choose to contact your child separately. If this does happen then it’s important to block the number.


Check out our tips on how to report, block and keep chats as private as possible.


You can video chat on WhatsApp


You can video chat with up to eight people on WhatsApp. People in video calls can be added by you or by others in group, meaning your child might be in group video call with people they don’t know.


When you’re invited to join a group video call your screen will show the people currently on the call. Remind your child not to answer if they see people or numbers they don’t recognise. If they see anything upsetting or inappropriate remind them they can exit the chat and tell an adult.


We’ve got more advice on video chat, video sharing and livestreaming.


You can share personal information on WhatsApp – including your live location


You can share written messages, photos, videos, voice messages, documents, your location and your phone contacts on WhatsApp. ‘Live location’ lets you share your current moving location for 15 minutes up to 8 hours. WhatsApp also lets you forward messages from your conversation, which means something you send could get sent to other people.


Make sure you talk to your child about what’s appropriate to share online and what’s not by following our top tips.

Top tips for staying safe

Your child might receive upsetting or negative things from other users on WhatsApp. If this happens, they might want to report or block them.  

WhatsApp has guidance on how to block other users, as well as general information on staying safe.

Take the time to explore this with your child, discussing when and why you might want to block somebody.

And remember to let your child know that they can always talk to you about anything they see online. 

Sitting down with your child and exploring their favourite app or game is a great way for you to learn more about what they like to do online.

You can ask them why they like to use an app or play certain games, as well as who they’re talking to and what sorts of things they’re sharing.

You can also read our Net Aware reviews for tips on how to keep kids safe on popular apps, sites and games.

WhatsApp group chats mean your child might be added to conversations with people they don’t know, which could increase the chance they come across upsetting or negative messages. (But remember, they could still see this from people they do know!)

WhatsApp default settings mean that anyone, including people outside your child’s phone contacts, can add them to group chats without their approval. To prevent this, we recommend changing the group chat settings from ‘Everyone’ to ‘My Contacts Except…’ and using the tick icon to select all contacts.

The ‘My Contacts Except…’ option means only your child’s phone contacts, except those you exclude, can add your child to groups. But by selecting all contacts, it means that nobody should be able to add your child to a group chat without first sending them an invitation, which they’ll need to accept before being added to a group chat.

For a step by step guide, WhatsApp has more information on group chat settings.

In the settings, under privacy, you can change who can see your personal info, including your profile photo.

We recommend exploring these features with your child and changing the settings so that only your child’s contacts, or nobody, can see their personal information.

Make sure that their profile photo and status updates only visible to their contacts or nobody at all. This will help to keep their identity private from people they might not know.

We also recommend changing who can see the ‘about’ info (a bit like a status) to either their contacts or nobody. And remind your child not to share details about their location here. If they need to let friends or family know where they are, they can message them separately.

WhatsApp has guidance on how to change your privacy settings.

Help your child think about what they share online and who sees it. Compare it to what they would be happy to share offline.

Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You shouldn't give your number to somebody you don't know on the street. Is somebody online you don't know any different?”

Listen to their answers. And be positive and encouraging.

Remind them that they shouldn’t share private things, such as:

  • personal information, like names, emails, phone numbers, location and school names
  • other people's personal information
  • links to join private group chats
  • photos of themselves
  • photos of their body, such as sexual photos or videos.

Explain that you understand the internet is a great place to play, create, learn and connect. But remind them they can talk to you if anything upsets or worries them.

Reassure them that you won’t overreact – you’re just looking out for them.

It’s important to remind your child that they can talk you, another adult they trust, like a teacher, or Childline about anything they see online.


Talking to your child

Having open, regular conversations with your child will help you to really understand and explore the online world together. Our tips and advice can help you start these conversations.

Talk about staying safe online

What children and parents are saying about WhatsApp

We've spoken to over 2,000 parents and kids to find out what they think.



What do children and young people dislike about WhatsApp?

  • Group chats can be used to bully people 
  • It can be addictive
  • You can't report

People can get hold of your number and send you bad things. But I like to send pics and have group chats with my friends.

Young person, 12

What do children and young people like about WhatsApp?

  • It’s an easy way to message friends and family 
  • You can block people
  • It's free to message over WiFi or using mobile data
  • Groups allow you to chat to lots of people at once

I like how I can text my friends and family really easily for free. It also allows me to be part of group chats. I think it is safe as long as you do not give your number out to random people.

Girl, 16



We asked parents about the following areas of WhatsApp

Signing up

It was easy and quick; every step was explained in a way that was very easy to understand.

Mum of an 18 year old

It seems to be very simple and anyone can access it as long as they have access to a mobile. 

Mum of 3 and 8 year old boys



I found the area to block people after a little bit of searching but could not find anywhere to report undesirable content.

Mum of 6 and 13 year olds

If a message comes from a number outside your contacts, WhatsApp tells you and offers a block option.

Dad of 3 and 8 year old boys

Privacy settings 

Most parents thought it was to set your profile, account and location to private.

As long as you know that settings can be changed then it's easy to do.

Mum of a 14 year old girl

Safety and support

If you Google then it's easy to find out. But not via the app directly.

Mum of a 14 year old girl


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