What is Whisper? An app review for parents
Whisper is a free application available on iOS and Android systems. The app was launched in 2012 by Michael Heywood and Brad Brooks. The premise of the app is to allow users to “Whisper” post their thoughts and feelings within the app. These are matched with an image where the text is overlaid on the picture. Users do not create profiles and are anonymous. Watch the video below to see how it works and to get our review.
A person can choose a name to use while in the application or a random one will be chosen by Whisper. Users can send each other messages either publicly or privately. The application also uses geolocation as a way to connect with other Whisper users. Other users can like or reply to messages. It is intended for 17-year-olds and older however it is not uncommon for young teenagers to use this application. According to Wikipedia, Whisper reached over 10 million monthly active users and over 10 billion monthly page views as of the Spring of 2015. The reason that this application is popular among teens is that is provides a cathartic place online to share ideas, thoughts and feelings in what seems to be a safe anonymous place. In our review of the application we found that there were also inappropriate content by way of questions. Post requesting a sexual partner is not uncommon on the app.
It is not anonymous
Whisper claims to be anonymous but it isn’t.
“You acknowledge and agree that transmissions over the Internet can never be completely secure and you understand that any message and/or information that you transmit to us might be intercepted and read by others, even if we take measures to prevent such interception (such as using encryption technology). You expressly agree that WhisperText may preserve any transmittal or communication by you through the Service, or any service offered through the Service, and may disclose that information if legally required to do so…”
In some cases this is a good thing.
In May 2015, a 15-year-old girl used the app to referenced the Columbine High School massacre and she threatened her school. Police in Boston arrested her after receiving a tip about her post. She posted, “gonna pull a Columbine…before I graduate.” The Police reported that the GPS location function from the Whisper app is how they located her. A gun belonging to her parents was also retrieved.
- There is no such thing as being anonymous online. Anything can be traced. In the case of Whisper, the company will give information to law enforcement agencies if it is requested. The company keeps track of information, including the IP address of it’s users.
- Geolocation compromises safety. The mobility of devices also means that anyone can drive around neighborhoods, refresh the application and find anonymous users easily.
- Private chats. Children and teens should always know with whom they are communicating online. Sending private information to unknown parties can be very dangerous.
- Internet trolls can be very cruel, especially to sensitive children. The dangers of encountering a negative remark when someone is sharing a difficult whisper online can be devastating for an emotionally fragile child.
- Their is a high probability that there are problems with predators using this app.
- It is difficult for parents to monitor their children on this application due to it’s anonymous feature.
Safety begins at home
The place to address all social media and online activity with children is at home. It is recommended that parents openly talk about online safety and expectations. Recommendations for parents are to set very specific rules about online safety. Establishing rules in anticipation of problems that may arise will help parents and children deal with problems when they arise.
Parents should consider implementing the following rules related to devices:
- The ability to review phones or devices that have apps at any time.
- The understanding that parents can delete or take away applications that are inappropriate.
- A Monthly review of online safety practices.
- Appropriate time limits for children using devices.
If you notice this application on your child’s device be sure to talk to them about how they are using the app and your thoughts about it’s appropriateness. If you have established rules ahead of time it will be easier to make corrections, delete or talk about concerns with your child. Use the skill of Effective Communication and the skill of Preventive Teaching to help your child.
Next week we will review another social media application your child may be using. Until then, be safe in cyberspace.