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.
Tap the cog – or Settings – icon on the bottom right of the application’s main page, then Account, then Privacy. Now tap Blocked and select the people you want to block. Anyone who you do block will no longer be able to call or message your child.
As with all social networks, there is ample wiggle room on WhatsApp for trolls and other online predators to abuse the system and post inappropriate and offensive material. Any group member doing this should be reported.
In order to do this, just tap the cog – or ‘Settings’ – then ‘Help’ and then ‘Contact Us’ and share details of the situation with the moderators.
Tap the cog – or ‘Settings’ – on the bottom right of the app’s main page, then ‘Account’, then ‘Privacy’. From here you can adjust what others can see on your child’s profile: ‘Last Seen’ shows when they were last using the app; ‘Profile Photo’ shows their profile photo; ‘About’ reveals your child’s personal details; and ‘Status’ reveals what they are doing now.
It can be dangerous for someone to know the location of your child. To remove ‘Live Location’, tap the cog – or ‘Settings’ – on the bottom right of the app’s main page, then ‘Account’, then ‘Privacy’. When you tap ‘Live Location’ you can choose the chats from which you want your child’s location to be removed.
The ‘Last Seen’ functionality on WhatsApp allows other users to see when your child has had the app open and was active. For example, ‘last seen today at 11:17am’. Some people view this as intrusive and want to turn it off. You can do so as follows:
On iOS devices, tap the settings icon at the bottom-right of the screen. Then go to ‘Account’ > ‘Privacy’ and tap ‘Last Seen’. From here you can choose who knows when you are last seen: ‘Everyone’, ‘My Contacts’ or ‘Nobody’.
On Android devices, tap the vertical dots in the top-right corner of the app. Then go to ‘Account’ > ‘Privacy’ and tap ‘Last Seen’. Now you can stipulate who can see this personal information: ‘Everyone’, ‘My Contacts’ or ‘Nobody’.
By default, WhatsApp saves any media from chats straight to your phone’s gallery. While this can be useful for some conversations, it soon becomes a burden on your phone’s memory, especially if some group members post a lot of images and video content.
To turn it off, open WhatsApp and go to ‘Settings’ > ‘Chats’ and toggle ‘Save to camera roll’ to off.
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.
For more information on setting controls across a range of devices, apps and platforms visit Internet Matters