The most popular messenger, even among children and teenagers, is WhatsApp. This is because communication is practical and easy, and many other people use it. Unfortunately, there are also a few negative sides to the popular service.
WhatsApp is a free messenger. After downloading, registration with a cell phone number is required. After that, profile picture and profile name can be assigned.
The main function of WhatsApp is to send messages to people from your own contacts (address book) who also use the app. These can be text and voice messages, images, videos or the live location. They can be sent either to individuals or to a whole group. Among teenagers, sending emojis and GIFs is especially popular. You can respond to individual messages with emojis.
Video calls with individuals or in groups are also possible in WhatsApp. Self-deleting messages can be sent, which automatically disappear from the device after seven days. And there is the possibility to send photos and videos that may be viewed only once and then disappear. Chats can also be archived.
Young people like to use the app because it allows them to quickly get in touch with acquaintances and family members, since almost everyone has WhatsApp installed. Teachers and classmates in class chats, grandparents as well as friends in other countries are just a click away. Users know when their contacts were last online. Via the profile picture and the so-called status they can share impressions from their life (similar to Instagram ). Fast communication via voice messages is particularly popular among young people.
Via messengers such as WhatsApp, we are virtually constantly reachable. However, the read receipt function in particular (two blue check marks on a message) can put young people under pressure to always reply directly. Even though hundreds of messages are sometimes exchanged daily in a class chat, this can overwhelm and stress children and young people. In addition, fakenews is often spread via these channels.
Pictures and messages are sent quickly. There is a risk that personal data, pictures and videos will be carelessly shared, redistributed and then, in the worst case, used for bullying. Also chain letters, sexting, dubious sweepstakes or misleading notifications can be problematic.
WhatsApp accesses a lot of the user’s information, such as the entire contact list in the cell phone. This is how contact data of others gets to WhatsApp and other people without being asked beforehand.
WhatsApp, just like Instagram , belongs to the Meta group (formerly Facebook ). The GTCs in force since 2021 inform that user data will also be passed on to companies for advertising purposes. There have also been rumors and plans for advertising on WhatsApp for quite some time. So far, however, these have not been implemented.
Certain security settings are supposed to improve the usage: People or phone numbers can be blocked; location tracking and read receipts can be deactivated. Users can also restrict the visibility of their own profile. Messages are exchanged in encrypted form, so they cannot be easily “hacked” by strangers. However, this only works in individual messages and when the backup – i.e. the data backup – is deactivated.
In early 2022, WhatsApp announced that group administrators will be able to delete messages from others. This function has not yet been implemented.
If your child is younger than 16, you must consent to their use of WhatsApp. Make sure your daughter or son uses Messenger responsibly. That is, educate your child about not giving out personal information to unknown people and sharing overly private photos with acquaintances. Together you can make settings for security. This can be done in the app itself, but also in the management of access rights in the Android or iOS operating system (in each case under Settings). In the app, you can set who sees what and whether or not you want to be invited to groups by strangers under the “Privacy” category. It may happen that certain functions can no longer be used if certain accesses are denied.
On Media Childproof there are video tutorials on how to safely set WhatsApp on your child’s Android smartphone or iPhone.
In addition to safety settings, you should also alert your child to potential dangers, such as cyberbullying. Messages can also remain unread for a few minutes and a reply can come later. Discuss with your child that a friendly tone should also prevail on the Internet.
If you want to use a messenger that offers more data security, read our tool descriptions for Signal and Threema .