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What Parents need to know about Whisper

whisper iconMany years ago, I was visiting a friend who showed me PostSecret. We spent an afternoon talking and scrolling through the blog which contained pictures of postcards people sent in with their deepest secrets scrawled on the back. Some were interesting; some were shocking; some were funny and all were anonymous. Later,I heard PostSecret launched an iPhone app. Unfortunately the app was overwhelmed by abusive comments and inappropriate pictures. In 2012, it was shut down. Now a new app, Whisper, is trying to recreate the PostSecret magic.

Whisper is a free app where people post anonymous thoughts and confessions. It is not a social network like Facebook or Twitter. Whisper users have no profile and there are no followers or friends. Users are only identified by a nickname and their location. Whispers appear on 4 public feeds: Popular, Nearby, Latest and Featured. People connect by liking a whisper (clicking on the heart) or replying (usually with your own whisper). They can also try to start a private conversation by sending a direct message.

whisper reply

Each feed has a different tone to its whispers. The Featured and Popular feeds remind me of PostSecret. Generally, these feeds have more funny or heartfelt confessions. The Featured feed is moderated and the Popular feed is based on the whispers with the most hearts and comments. I found the Nearby feed containing whispers within 20 miles or the unvetted Latest feed contain the more questionable whispers. Here, you will see far more pleas for hooking up or asking for a nude photo.

whisper feed

whisper local

Whisper also has some of the same problems as the original PostSecret app. Replies to whispers about suicidal thoughts or self harm are some times cruel. While people enjoy their anonymity, they are not always respectful of other’s privacy. Anonymous users can post mean comments about other people identifying them by both name and location. Unfortunately, there have been a few reports of bullying with this app. The CEO has stated in numerous interviews, he wants to keep the content respectful. To this end, Whisper does employ moderators and encourages users to flag and report inappropriate content.

If your teen is asking about Whisper, here is what you need to know. 

Rating is 17+ – This app is rated 17+ and there is a clear prompt before downloading that this app is for 17 and older. The CEO of Whisper says only 4% of users are under 18. If your teen is on Whisper they are in an adult environment.

Location –  The app automatically includes your location with each whisper. People can turn off  location by clicking at the top of the whisper and choosing (don’t show my location). On my phone this did not work. My location still appeared on my whisper and in the Nearby feed. The only way I found not to include my location was to turn off the geolocation settings on my phone.

Private MessagingWhisper’s tag line is “Express Yourself – Share Secrets – Meet New People.” How you meet new people is by sending a private message. Like Kik and “kikme”, you see whispers asking for people to send them a private message or “PM” them. If you have a kid under 17 on this app, the messages they receive are most likely from adults. If they receive a message from an anonymous user, they can block them by going to their inbox and swiping the conversation.  Here, they will see an option to delete the conversation or ban the user.

ReportingWhisper wants to avoid the fate of PostSecret’s app. Users can flag an inappropriate whisper by tapping on the flag in the upper right hand corner. If multiple users flag a whisper it is removed. Whisper states it has a zero tolerance policy towards defamation or any other forms of bullying. Users can send an email to Support@whisper.sh with information on what the post said, the username, and a screenshot so it can remove it as well as permanently ban the user who posted it.

MonitoringWith Whisper, parents cannot friend or follow their teen. There is no profile to see. The only way to know what they are doing on this app is to access it through their phone. And, if your kid has enabled their pin code, you will need to enter their code before you can see their activity.

This is an app where it far safer to be a lurker than a user. Whisper is not designed for teens and this is not an easy app to check up on. Teens may enjoy scrolling through the Popular or Featured feeds but they should wait and post their first whisper on their 18th birthday.

To learn more, here are some other articles:

Friday Rewind – In-app purchases, Passwords, Report it and the Daily Show

rewindHappy Friday!

Every Friday, I am answering your questions and sharing helpful blogs and resources. Today, we are talking about In-app purchases, passwords, reporting online abuse and the Daily Show.

In-app purchases

This week, Apple agreed to pay 32.5 million for allowing kids to rack of purchases of virtual items within an app without a parent’s permission. After parents entered their password and bought the app, their child had an open window of 15 minutes to buy stuff without reentering the password. If your one of these parents, Apple should be contacting you with how to get a refund for unauthorized purchases by kids. To prevent future unauthorized purchases, check out Commonsense Media’s 4 ways to prevent in app purchases for Apple devices.

Apple is not alone. Consumer Reports found that Google Play allows a child to spend for up to 30 minutes without having to re-enter a passwordFor us Android users, there is no way to turn off Google Play’s grace period. After purchasing an app or game on Google Play, you have 15 minutes for a full refund BUT this 15-minute refund period does not apply to in-app purchases. If you want a refund on the magical sword, you need to contact the developer. No word yet on if the FTC is investigating Google Play. For now, you may want to hang out with your kid for 30 minutes and talk with them about how not everything in a free app is free.

 Most Popular Passwords for 2013

Guess my Password Game is one of my most popular posts. When I first played it with my kid, I guessed her password right away. Yes, her password was one of the top 10 most popular passwords. This week, I updated my game to include the most popular passwords for 2013. It is almost identical to my original list except a bit longer. For instance, 1234 is now 123456. Passwords are getting longer; now we need to work on making them stronger.

 Reporting Online Abuse

The Cyberbullying Research Center has a list of popular apps and how to report online abuse for each one. This is a great resource for parents. It is important for us to let these companies know what is happening so they can address the problem and limit this harmful activity. Bookmark Report It.

Daily Show Privacy

Not often does one of my favorite TV shows and privacy collide, but it did this week. Check out Jon Stewart and Therese author Theresa Payton discussing her new book Privacy in the Age of Big Data.