What kind of parental controls does WhatsApp have?

WhatsApp is a versatile and accessible way to communicate but, as with all hugely popular messaging apps, it does have its drawbacks. Let’s look at some ways parents can safeguard children.

What is WhatsApp?

Owned by Facebook, WhatsApp is a free app that allows over a billion users worldwide to send unlimited messages, voice calls, movies, videos, images, documents and other media via a phone, tablet or laptop. All you need is a mobile phone number and the WhatsApp messages can begin.

What's the minium age restriction for WhatsApp?

Your child needs to be 16 years of age to legally use WhatsApp. The restrictions were lifted to 13 years old at one point, but in April 2018 data protection law reverted it back to 16.

As with most social media apps, it’s fairly easy for young people to circumvent the rules and use the app anyway: there are no procedures in place to verify someone’s age and to stop them accessing adult content.

However, as we mentioned before, unlike most social media apps WhatsApp’s main purpose is to send messages to friends who your child already has on their mobile device. So, as long as your child’s phone contacts contain people who they know and trust, communications should remain sensible and safe.

Parents should, however, be aware that within WhatsApp’s group chats, your child can come into contact with strangers.

Setting up parental controls on WhatsApp

WhatsApp might fly under the radar compared to its more public social networking platforms, but that doesn’t mean parents can’t make prudent moves to protect their child from its darker aspects.

It’s a good idea for all parents to become familiar with the service, the reason why their child likes it and the tools at hand to help protect them and keep them safe.

What are WhatsApp Groups?

Being able to construct groups and have group chats is the standout feature of WhatsApp – WhatsApp is to group chats what Uber is to minicabs – and a great way for users to come together on a daily basis in an online environment. It’s an excellent way to share thoughts and ideas with like-minded folk and to feel connected even if you’re not in the same geographical location.

However, being involved in multiple group chats can be too much of a good thing: if they belong to multiple groups or very active groups, your child’s device will no doubt be buzzing, pinging and throbbing constantly over the course of a day, demanding their attention and increasing their screen time.

If you think this may be the case with your child, it will certainly pay to monitor the situation and make some adjustments. Too much time focusing on one app or at a screen full stop is not good for a young person’s physical or mental wellbeing.

How to mute or exit a WhatsApp group

If a group chat is becoming too much and the notifications are not wanted anymore, you can either mute the group or simply leave it. There can be a stigma attached to leaving groups, so a lot of people prefer just to mute it, so they aren’t bothered by it anymore.

To mute just enter the group chat, tap the name of the group to enter ‘Group Info’ and then ‘Mute’ to toggle how long you want it to be muted for. Nobody in the group will know you have them on mute.

To exit a group, follow the same steps to ‘Group Info’ and then press ‘Exit Group’. Everyone in the group will be informed that you left.

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