A Look at the Whisper App’s Unsafe “Schools” Feature

We’ve written more than once in the past about the Whisper app, and how it’s not the safest place online for teens. In a post from last year titled “Whisper app is enabling dangerous teen behavior”, we covered issues such as self-harm that have attracted teens on the app, and not in an entirely positive way.

Whisper started out as an anonymous, photo-based app where users could post text messages superimposed over images, typically secrets or confessions. Whisper has location functionality, but unlike Yik Yak, location is not necessarily a key feature. Earlier this year, Whisper rolled out a “Schools” feature that makes each user’s location more critical, especially for some young users.

The way the app works for browsing is that users can search by term or category using the “Discover” tab, or can browse posts sorted by “Latest”, “Nearby”, “Popular” and now “Schools”.

We decided to search for our local high school, Hunterdon Central Regional High School, which is a couple of miles away. You can see below how easy it is to connect to a school’s feed after tapping on the “Schools” tab, whether you are a student there or not.

whisper-schools

We were easily able to sign up for the school’s feed, and scroll through posts presumably made mostly or exclusively by our “fellow students”. We’ve highlighted a few of them below.

whisper-unsafe-teens

  • In the first post, the user claims to be a 15-year old looking for anonymous romance. He posts his Kik messaging user name publicly, which we strongly advise against.
  • The second post appears to be a user looking for someone interested in phone sex. This could be anyone.
  • whisper-weed-dealerThe third is someone looking to have weed delivered to her (?) home. She lists the country road on which she lives, and presumably is willing to give her complete address to a stranger.

The image at right is one of the responses to the third image.

The Whisper app hasn’t been in the news much lately, which is probably a good thing as far as parents are concerned. Yik Yak appears to be the anonymous app of choice for kids who are up to no good. A key difference between how users post on the two apps leads us to believe that parents should be concerned about teens using Whisper as well. Here’s why.

Yik Yak’s notoriety is based mostly on the fact that it has been used for dozens of school threats, many of which involved in police involvement and arrests. It appears that rogue Yik Yak users favor the app to cause trouble (threats, harassment etc.), whereas Whisper users prefer that app when looking to get into trouble (casual sex, drug deals etc.).

Whisper has critical mass and is bigger than Yik Yak – an estimated 10 million users, vs. 3.5 million for Yik Yak. Whisper’s age limit is 17, but just like most apps, they are powerless to enforce that limit – you can post that you’re 15-years old and nothing happens. Since Whisper is anonymous, it is impossible for parents to effectively keep track of what their teens are doing on there. Whisper is likely to grow in popularity at schools, and as such we reiterate the warning we’ve given parents before – it’s a good idea to keep teens off the Whisper app altogether.

 

 

 

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