What do I need to know about WhatsApp?

We've spoken to parents to find out what they think about WhatsApp. We've also asked children and young people what they think. Here's what they said:

Children’s views

What do children and young people dislike about it?

2% of the children and young people who reviewed WhatsApp thought it was unsafe. The main things they told us they don’t like about WhatsApp were:

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

What do children and young people like about it?

The main things that children and young people told us they like about WhatsApp were:

  • 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

Is content on WhatsApp suitable for children and young people?

We asked parents and young people about the types of inappropriate content they’ve seen on WhatsApp. The level of risk is based on the % of respondents who reported seeing these types of content. The ratings are: Low Risk (less than 5% of respondents); Medium Risk (between 5 and 25%); and High Risk (over 25%, or more than one in four).


Medium Risk

Violence & hatred

Medium Risk


Medium Risk

Suicide & self-harm

Low Risk

Drink, drugs & crime

Low Risk

What are people saying about

Young person, 12

“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.”

Girl, 17

“I don't like how groups can be made to hate against someone and how that someone could be added into the group and made fun of, and I don't like how explicit photos could be shared around.”

Girl, 16

“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.”


“This is great and faster than instant messaging but it can be used in a negative way i.e. groups can be set up to bully children.” – Mother of 3 and 8 yr old boys


“Have open and frank discussions about the good things WhatsApp can be used for as well as the many potential pitfalls. Make sure your child understands that it is alright to speak up if they are worried about something they have seen.” – Father of 7 and 10 yr olds


“It’s good that you can block people and only let your contacts see when you have been online etc. But it’s bad that anyone can initially message you if they have your number.” – Mother of 3 and 8 yr olds


"Our product now supports sending and receiving a variety of media: text, photos, videos, documents, and location, as well as voice calls. Our messages and calls are secured with end-to-end encryption, meaning that no third party including WhatsApp can read or listen to them."

O2 Guru Top Tip for WhatsApp

O2 Guru Camilla says:

"You can hide personal information on WhatsApp. Features like last seen, profile photo, about, status & live location can be hidden via Settings, Account and Privacy."

Our O2 NSPCC Online Safety Helpline can help you to set up parental controls, adjust privacy settings or get advice on social networks. You can call us free on 0808 800 5002.

For face to face advice and support, you can also book a free in-store appointment with an O2 Guru here (even if you’re not with O2). 


What's the right age for WhatsApp?


WhatsApp says

This is from WhatsApp's own guidelines and is accurate as of July 2018.


Our panel of parents say

Based on our independent panel of 2,049 parents, surveyed through YouGov in January 2018.


Children say

Based on 2,059 responses from children and young people in November and December 2017.


Net Aware visitors say

Based on 2796 votes from parents who have visited this site – you can vote too!

What do you think?

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Start a conversation with your child
about WhatsApp

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

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