With over 2 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is the world’s most popular instant messaging app.
In fact, you and your child may be already using it every day!
With its simple interface, it can be easy to assume you know everything about using WhatsApp.
However, there are a few lesser known features that can be crucial in ensuring your child’s safety online:
Blocking a contact: Go into the chat with the contact you want to block, tap on their name, scroll down and tap Block Contact.
You can also report abusive, inappropriate or illegal content to WhatsApp in the same menu – simply scroll down and tap Report Contact.
Disabling read receipts: If your child feels under pressure to reply simply because other users know they’ve read a message, they can disable read receipts.
Open Settings > Account > Privacy, scroll down to Read Receipts, and uncheck the box or slide the switch to Off.
Disappearing messages: This feature allows your messages in a specific chat disappear after seven days.
To turn it on, choose a chat and tap on your contact or the chat’s name at the top of the screen. Then, tap Disappearing Messages from the options and select On.
Remember: WhatsApp automatically saves any images you send or receive to your or your contact’s phone.
So while your child’s message will disappear after seven days, the images they send may still be saved on their contact’s phone.
End-to-end encryption: This system ensures only you and the person you’re communicating with can read or listen to what is sent in all of your WhatsApp chats – including WhatsApp itself.
This has numerous benefits, but it has also caused concerns about online grooming, since encryption makes it almost impossible to track predators who communicate with victims using this technology.
Export chat: WhatsApp users can save conversations by exporting them.
This can be helpful if you need evidence of bullying or abusive behaviour, but it’s also a reminder that everything communicated via social media can be saved and brought offline.
Hoax messages: Scams, hoaxes and fake news can circulate on WhatsApp, but there are ways of identifying them.
Forwarded messages, spelling errors, heavily edited photos or videos or a message urging you to share the message are key clues that could mean the item you received is a hoax.
‘Last seen’ status: If you don’t want people to know when you or your child were last online, you can hide this status.
Open Settings > Account > Privacy > Last Seen. Then select from Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody.
Live location sharing: This feature allows users to share their current location with contacts in a chat for a specific period of time.
Although this can be useful in some contexts, it can be dangerous for children.
If your child has shared their location via WhatsApp, they can stop it by tapping More options > Settings > Account > Privacy > Live location > Stop Sharing > Stop.
Mute conversations: This enables you to turn off notifications for a specific group chat for eight hours, one week or always.
Android users can long press on a chat, then tap the speaker with a line through it to mute that chat. iPhone users can swipe left on a chat, click the three-dot icon and tap Mute.
WhatsApp Web: Yes, you can use WhatsApp in a browser! To set it up, visit https://web.whatsapp.com/ and follow the instructions.
You’ll need to have a WhatsApp account on your phone to use this service, and your phone should be connected to Wi-Fi or mobile data.