Whisper is a free social networking app available for iPhone and Android and website (found at Whisper.sh) that encourages users to share secrets. The app was originally intended and first became popular on college campuses, but like many trends, it has trickled down to a younger crowd. It is becoming popular with tweens, and it is something parents absolutely need to know about because it can be unsafe.
1. The app and website encourages users to post pictures and share secrets anonymously as well as chat with other "whisperers." The "whispers" are text expression of secrets placed over stylized images. Whisper's tag line is "Express Yourself - Share Secrets - Meet New People." I'm a little confused about how one meets anonymous new people.
2. Whisper is rated 17+ by the App store due in part to "Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes."
3. Predators have been known to use Whisper to contact victims. Detectives in Seattle said that a man admitted to using Whisper to arrange to meet a 12 year-old for sex. The Whisper user said she was 14 (sorry, dude, still not legal or okay) and the predator had her send sexual photos. He then drove to her house and told her by phone how to sneak our by removing a screen and they drove to a hotel where they had sex.
4. Whisper reveals a user's location, which can be problematic and even dangerous. CoolMomTech said," If you’ve enabled location services, your whispers can show up in lists of nearby whispers, which increases the possibility that you’re not so anonymous after all." That also makes it easy for whisperers to arrange to meet up, which police say also makes it easier for predators to locate and connect with victims.
5. The app requires a pin to look through the history. This is an example of why parents need their child's user name and password or pin for absolutely everything, and if parents are going to permit tweens and teens to use Whisper or similar apps, it is absolutely essential that they monitor their child's use.
6. Teens and tweens use Whisper to cyberbully other kids. It's not rocket science that apps like this can be used by students to harass their peers, but kids take it a step further and "whisper" about school faculty. The problem of cyberbullying on Whisper, particularly in the instance of inapporpiate comments made on the app following the death of a North Carolina high school student, has prompted an online petition on Change.org for Whisper to change its cyberbullying and age policy.
8. Whisper is popular and expanding. In August 2013, it has more than 2.5 billion page views and the following month it secured an additional $21 million in funding this fall. In October 2013, Mashable said Whisper had 4 million users. Whisper doesn't appear to be going anywhere and in fact is hoping to grow, making it more likely to attract tween users.
There are several other apps that are popular with tweens but not always safe. Check out the Tween Us guides for parents:
Parents can help keep their kids safe by asking them one simple question about each of their online connections: "Do you know this person in real life?" Find out why and get more tips from Dr. Kortney Peagram, bullying and violence prevention expert, here.
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