Whisper is an anonymous, GPS enabled app that has been rising in popularity since its launch in 2012. It hasn’t blown up like Snapchat or Instagram, but it is steadily growing its user base, particularly among teens and millennials.
We wrote in January about a glaring challenge for parents who are interested in monitoring their teen on Whisper. Unless you have your teen’s phone in your hand, logged in, you will not even be able to figure out which user is your child, much less monitor posts and interactions.
To see what your teen has been up to on Whisper, you’ll need to access his or her phone (do you know the home screen password?), open the Whisper app, click on the Activity tab and enter the PIN number (yes, you need that too). We understand that it’s a lot of work and you’ll need your teen’s cooperation…
The biggest problem with Whisper isn’t cyberbullying, as is the case with many other anonymous platforms. Nor is the problem that many of the user posts are confessions. A teen saying, “I have a crush on my lab partner,” or “I got into Stanford and I really don’t want to go” isn’t much of a problem at all.
The problem as we see it that the user community is becoming a support group for young users either into self-harm, secretly living a life of destructive behavior, or both.
The search function on Whisper works well, and a user searching for hashtags such as #thinspo (inspiration for eating disorder sufferers), #proana (pro anorexia), #promia (pro bulimia), #cutting (self mutilation), or posts related to suicide or substance abuse will find plenty of posts, supportive users and peers to connect with.
It is worth noting that Whisper falls far short of another prominent app, Instagram, in keeping kids safe and mentally healthy. For example, on Instagram if you search for #thinspo, a warning message pops up (pictured at right) including a link to resources for support of eating disorder sufferers. Whisper offers no such warnings or support.
It is our opinion that Whisper should be much more proactive in offering a safer user experience in the cases where young people stumble across harmful behaviors, and more resources for those who are currently suffering.
As is the case with a lot of problematic teen internet use, the solution lies in communication between parents and kids. Given how Whisper works, open communication is absolutely the first line of defense, or first step in charting a better course of behavior.
If someone from Whisper reads this and would like to offer comment, we’re all ears.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.