Social networks, apps and games
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WhatsApp

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.

16+

Official age rating

13+

Parent age rating

What do parents say?
11+

Child age rating

What do children say?

At a glance

Kids use this to...

Play

Create

Learn

Connect

Expert view of the risks...

Sexual

Medium Risk

Violence & hatred

Medium Risk

Bullying

Medium Risk

Suicide & self-harm

Medium Risk

Drink, drugs & crime

Medium Risk

O2 Guru top tip

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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. 

Exploring apps, sites and games together is a great way to involve your child in the decision-making process.

Be positive about what you see, but also be open about your concerns. Ask them what they think is appropriate and what worries them.

If you decide it’s not appropriate, then make sure you explain your reasons why.

You might decide it’s ok for your child to use. If so, make sure you follow the tips below to ensure it’s as safe as possible. And work out a time when you’ll next discuss the app.

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.

You might want to start by asking:

  • What kinds of things do you share online?
  • Should we share everything?
  • What shouldn’t we share?

Use examples that are easy for them to understand: “You wouldn’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.

And if they feel like they can’t speak to you, tell them to talk to an adult they trust, like a teacher or Childline.

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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.

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Kids

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

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Parents

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

 

Reporting

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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