As parents there are a great many social media networks we need to be aware of. Many of us know about and even use social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but there are some up and coming social media services that may give parents cause for concern. One that is taking teens and young adults by storm is Whisper.
What is Whisper?
Whisper is an app available in both the iTunes and Android stores, as well as online at their website. Simply put you can type a secret, add and image and create a postcard type image to make a statement. Whisperers are 100% anonymous and users state they are 17+ in order to register. You can visit the website which allows users to search for posts by category, location (nearby), editors picks (featured), time (latest) or popular Whispers. You can vote on your favorite whispers and bring them to the forefront as well as share them on other social media channels. Messaging is also available but it's a paid feature.
What should parents know?
As we have seen teens (and even adults) don't always tell the truth. There are many users on Facebook that are under the required age, that are participating in discussions, posts and shares. The same can happen here. However, that may only be the tip of the parenting dilemma.
Millions of people are going to Whisper to share anything from as simple as "I love living in the country," to other more shocking secrets from cutting and cyberbullying to eating disorders. While some may say this is a form of catharsis others would disagree, fearing that there are some out there that may prey on those hurts that people are sharing in an effort for compassion and healing. The "nearby" feature has also been used to meet in real life, which is another feature parents should know about this particular social media share site.
“When you look at any of these identity-based social networks, people are so concerned about their image that they only post really positive things,” Whisper co-founder Michael Heyward told TechCrunch. He adds, “We saw a huge white space of things that people were not publishing, and wanted to give people a place to share these things that they wouldn’t feel comfortable putting out on social networks.”
One other concern parents may want to consider is the truthfulness of these statements. Could it actually turn into another form of cyberbullying as so called "friends" share the deepest darkest secrets that have been shared with them in an effort to get the most votes?
Parents should also be aware that some of what they see and read on this social media app may shock them, it may bring them to tears.
How 100% anonymous is Whisper really?
Data breaches do happen, and sites like SnapChat and games like XBox have found out, so it should be difficult to say that it's 100% anonymous. Also, confessions are turning into content, as Forbes reports that they have even brought on some of the best in the business to make sure it happens. So how anonymous will it remain.
Though Whispers claims to hope to create a new method of citizen journalism and offer more honest and less competitive opportunities to show your true self. In New York Magazine Heyward shares, (Whisper) :allows for more honest communication – that, by removing the fear of repercussions and embarrassment, Whisper users can close the gap between the selves they create online and who they really are."
Either way, there's still a pressure to perform. Even with the reported moderators online to make sure that cyberbullying and fakery doesn't take over there are still untruths.
What can parents do?
Talk to your children about the app and find out if they are using it. You will find a purple box with a "W" in the middle of it on their phones and you can find it in the history. Discuss both the advantages and disadvantages of using this type of social media tool and put into place safety measures, whether it's eliminating the app from your family's use using software and blocking tools or teaching your kids the appropriate use of this site.