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Keeping your child safe when using WhatsApp

Hello everyone,

As you might be aware, WhatsApp is currently one of the most used messaging applications on the internet. Although WhatsApp’s user policy states that children need to be 16 years or older to use the application, much younger children are using WhatsApp on a daily basis.

This post targets parents and carers that wish to now more about the App and what to do to ensure that your child is safe when using the App.

What’s the problem?

5 steps to help your child use WhatsApp safely

1. Keep their personal information and location private

By default, WhatsApp shows profile photos, status and when you last used it to all users.

Encourage your child to only share this information with their contacts, and to only talk to people they know in person on the app, as anyone could pretend to be a child online.

To check and change these settings:

WhatsApp also has a feature that you can use to share your ‘live location’ with others. Tell your child to keep this turned off, or to only share their location with people they trust.

To check this:

2. Remind your child to be careful about what they share

It’s easy to forward messages, photos and videos to others via this app. Even if your child deletes an image from their phone after sharing it, this won’t delete the image from other people’s phones.

So encourage your child to think carefully about what they share and with who. Before they share anything, tell them to ask themselves: “would I want others to see what I’m about to send?”

3. Remind your child they can leave group chats

If they see something they’re not comfortable with in a group chat, or are in a chat with someone they don’t know and are uncomfortable with, they should leave the group. To do this:

4. Make sure your child knows how to report and block people

Whenever they first receive a message from an unknown number, WhatsApp will give them an option to report the message.

If someone in your child’s contacts is upsetting them or making them uncomfortable, they can report or block them at any point. (WhatsApp won’t tell the user they’ve been blocked/reported.)

To do this:

  1. In Android, open the chat, tap the 3 dots in the top-right, then > More > Block (or Report)

To report issues like offensive or abusive content or spam:

  1. In Android, tap the 3 dots in the top-right of the home screen, then > Settings > Help > Contact us

5. Encourage your child to be alert to spam and hoax messages

Explain that these can appear to come from contacts, as well as people they don’t know. Tell your child to watch out for messages that:

  1. Ask them to tap on a link, or specifically to click on a link to activate a new feature
  1. Ask them to share personal information like bank account details, date of birth or passwords
  1. Ask them to forward the message

What can I do about online bullying?

If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate in contacting your child’s class teacher or any member of the leadership team.

Mr Feitor

Sources used in this factsheet
WhatsApp, Net Aware
Bullying and cyberbullying, NSPCC
Frequently asked questions, WhatsApp
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