Kids love using WhatsApp because they can talk as a group and send each other hysterical posts (leaving parents wondering what language they are using!). But as they spend endless hours glued to their phones, laughing and smiling at the screen, do you wonder: “Is WhatsApp safe for my kids?” That’s a good question. In this digital age one wrong post can have life-altering consequences and it is important to be mindful of the WhatsApp dangers at our kids’ fingertips:
- A seemingly harmless post or picture can damage a reputation, even years down the line.
- The option to send photos and videos can open the door for inappropriate conduct.
- Deleted never means disappeared forever.
- People with bad intentions can pretend to be trusted friends
- Kids are sometimes victims of cyber bullying, even in the beloved group chats.
This is why WhatsApp has an age restriction of 13. This is why you, as a parent, need to be on top of things while they chat and send each other GIFs:
Talk to your kids. Ideally, even before you give your kids a phone, have a conversation about their online safety. Don’t shy away from difficult conversations. Be crystal clear about the potential dangers of WhatsApp.
Highlight the importance of their privacy settings and talk to them about who has access to their phone number. Show them how to change the privacy settings on their phone so that only their contacts can see their activity and help them to disable location-tagging.
Talk to your kids about what they share with friends. Discuss what you consider appropriate information to share: Is it a fun conversation, or something inappropriate for their age? Be explicit about never sending anyone photos of themselves without clothes.
Teach your kids to think twice about what they share. Everything posted on a social network should be treated as if it’s public. Teach them to consider the potential consequences of what they post.
You really should constantly monitor what your child is up to on WhatsApp. Don’t feel bad checking their phones, as if you are doing something wrong. Make your home a secret-free zone with all devices up for parental inspection at any time. Kids need to be aware that the messages they are sending and receiving are being seen by parents and could have a dire affect such as:
- not being allowed to play with that child,
- showing the teacher / school the messages,
- phoning the child’s parents which could lead to their phone being taken away or some other punishment.
- If they are a member of a WhatsApp group that is posting inappropriate things (swearing, bullying, unsuitable jokes) they should rather exit the group.
It’s crucial to thrash all these things out. It’s time to stop tiptoeing about!