Whisper App Linked to Rape of 16 Year-Old Girl in Bensalem, PA

Whisper App is an anonymous, location-based app that isn’t new, but is new for a lot of parents. The app is being called out for whisper-app-homehaving been used by a predator this week, in a case where a 16 year-old teen was allegedly raped by a 42 year-old male after “meeting” on Whisper.

The app was launched in March of 2012, (you can read our overview of Whisper here) and to be fair they do a pretty good job of policing and deleting cyberbullying, pornographic images and other posts that violate their Terms of Use. The app was created to allow users to divulge secrets without having to reveal their true identity, but problems have arisen when two anonymous users end up meeting in person, and one of the people has less than pure motives. In an interview with All Things D, the Whisper CEO Michael Heyward offered the following:

“The problem with profile-based networks is they’re always trying to make you be one person. You can’t be captain of football and really like “Glee.” You can’t be a great dad and a huge tattoo enthusiast. We connect people around content, rather than connecting around people.”

whisper-secretThat sounds good in principle, but consider Whisper from the point of view of a predator. The app is truly anonymous – nobody will know your true identity or age unless they meet you in person. Whisper is location based – by default, your location is revealed with each post, although users can turn location off for individual posts, or by disabling the GPS tracking on their phone. So, a predator who is looking for a teenage girl in the Northeast Philadelphia area will be able to find people who appear to be just that, and attempt to strike up a conversation.

We’re sure that most teens don’t begin using Whisper as a means to meet people in real life, but one can’t discount the resourcefulness of predators. If a predator does see a post in his area that looks like it was posted by a teenage girl (or whatever type of person he is looking for), he can reply either via public or private message, and attempt to establish a dialog. In the case above, the predator and teen had been communicating for weeks before meeting in person.

The really bad news for parents is that it is impossible to monitor teens on Whisper unless the parent has access to the teen’s phone and passwords, including their Whisper password.

Even if predators are rare on Whisper and other social networks, they do exist. Whisper is an app that is by its very nature one that your teen should avoid, even if their intent is to only use it to share silly secrets. The risk is too great.

 

Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.

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