The messaging service WhatsApp has recently launched a new update that sees a move towards photo and video sharing as a main feature.
WhatsApp started out as a text messaging service in 2009. It quickly gained in popularity due to the fact users can send messages through an internet connection, rather than having to use up credit, or rely on a mobile signal.
The latest Status feature update allows users to share photos and videos with their contacts. Similar to other photo and video sharing apps, users can add text, stickers and drawings to their photos and videos to personalise them. Once added to a user’s Status, other contacts can view it for up to 24 hours.
There are several privacy options a user can choose from, to take more control over which people or groups can see their status post. Access this feature by clicking the ‘Privacy’ tab in the top left corner of the Status page.
Groups users can share their Status with include:
- My Contacts - Status available to all contacts added on WhatsApp
- My Contacts Except… - Status available to all contacts except those selected by the user
- Only Share With … - Status only available to contacts selected by the user
While this feature is an easy way to control who gets to see a post initially, it’s important for young people to remember that anyone who does see images on a Status has the opportunity to take a screen shot and re-share it elsewhere. Our core message to young people is to think before you post, to consider where a post might end up, and who might see it.
Reporting and blocking
In recent updates, WhatsApp switched to providing end-to-end encryption. This means that only the users communicating with each other – nobody else in between, including WhatsApp - are able to see any text, photos or videos shared either in a message or in a Status.
This move was made with privacy in mind. Due to the fact WhatsApp cannot look at messages or posts, there are further actions users need to take in order to report abusive, inappropriate or illegal content.
Access the report page by choosing:
- ‘Settings’ > ‘About and Help’ > ‘Contact Us’
There is an option on the app to attach a screenshot so that WhatsApp can see the content being reported. WhatsApp’s website states “This feature is primarily for reporting problematic content on the app as Whatsapp do not have the contents of messages available to them, which limits their ability to verify the report and take action.”
Due to the limits imposed by end-to-end encryption, WhatsApp encourages users to contact appropriate law enforcement if they, or another user, is at risk of emotional or physical harm and to also share any screenshots and other details with them.
Whatsapp does provide the ability to block contacts so they are unable to make future contact with you. This can be done through the app, by choosing:
- ‘Settings’ > ‘Account’ > ‘Privacy’ > ‘Blocked’
See our ‘How to make a report’ page for further organisations you can report to.
Tools to stay safe
Online communication and interaction are fun and important parts of young people’s lives, so it is vital we equip them with the knowledge and behaviour to keep themselves safe. Childnet suggest the following advice to discuss with young people:
- Only accept/add contacts who you know and trust in the offline world
- Think before you post and remember that things you post privately could potentially end up being shared publicly
- Keep personal information private
- Be a good friend and show respect and kindness online
- Talk to a trusted adult if anything worries you or upsets you online
Our blog ‘Group Chats – the new digital etiquette’ has more advice on supporting your child using group messaging services, and further guidance can be found in our parents’ guide, Young People and Social Networking Sites.