Articles

Whisper App - Phenomenally popular app with teens and predators

Apps and Games Friday, March 16, 2018

Whisper app is a phenomenally popular app with teens. Whisper has a total of 17 billion monthly page views on its mobile and desktop websites with 250 million monthly users, mostly teens, across 187 countries. It was recently used by a child predator to contact and rape a 12-year-old girl in Pasco County, Florida.

Description: Whisper is available on iOS and Android mobile devices, free of charge. It is a form of anonymous social media, allowing users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously, The posts, called "whispers", consist of text superimposed over an image, and the background imagery is either automatically retrieved from Whisper's own search engine or uploaded by the user.

You can respond to a message publicly or privately, choosing a public anonymous post or a private pseudonymous chat. Users don't have a public identity in the app. While they do have persistent handles, there's no way to contact them except through the messages they post.

APP Store rating: 17+ (infrequent/mild profanity or crude humor, suggestive themes, alcohol, tobacco, or drug use)

What parents need to know:

Whisper violates my two basic rules of online safety: Users are anonymous, and it allows strangers to contact children. It also has some serious privacy concerns.

No Parental Controls: Whisper does not have parental controls. Casual use will find extremely sexually suggestive material in the form of provocative pictures and words. In the settings, you can hide “NSFW” (not safe for work) content from showing up in the Home feed, but you can not lock this setting. The Whisper app can’t be monitored with conventional web filters including OpenDNS. Whisper also reveals a user’s location, which can compromise privacy and safety. With locations services enabled, your whispers can show up in lists of nearby whispers, which increases the possibility that the person who replies to your message could be within walking or driving distance.

Predators: When you have anonymity and public social media accounts, you have predators. Whisper is widely used by predators to troll for potential victims. Predators are looking for vulnerable children. Children use Whisper to "secretly" express their sadness, emotional needs, or sexually explicit thoughts. All of this information gives child sex predators the information they need to target and manipulate a vulnerable child. March 14, 2018, The Pasco County Sheriff's Office arrested 23-year-old Tyler James Dempsey and charged him with sexual battery with force on a 12-year-old. Dempsey used Whisper to contact three 12-year-olds and ask them if they wanted to get together to party. The girls told Dempsey they were 15 years old. Dempsey picked the girls up and took them to his sister's apartment where he gave them marijuana. He then used street slang to ask one of the girls to have sex. The 12-year-old, not understanding what he was asking, went into a room alone with him where he sexually assaulted her. He then drove all three girls back to the location where he picked them up. The 12-year-old rape victim didn't tell anyone what had happened until the following day when she confided with a guidance counselor at her school.

Cyber Safety Cop Recommendation: This app is not safe for children. Anonymity encourages risky behavior in teens. The open nature of Whisper's social network opens the door to predators having the ability to anonymously and confidentially contact children.

Parent Action Plan

1. Password protect your child's app store so they are unable to download this app and others like it.

2. Talk to your child about the danger of talking to strangers online. Discuss the risk of arranging an in-person meeting with a stranger, regardless of how "nice" they seemed online.

3. Get educated and stay on top of your child's DIGITAL WORLD

I wish I could say the Whisper app was the only app you need to worry about. It isn't by a long shot. Technology is a moving target, and the typical parent is too busy to follow every development. I have resources for you:

  1. Attend a Parenting in the Digital World seminar near you.
  2. Request information on how you can host a parent or student talk at your school.
  3. Get the book I wrote for you, Parenting in the Digital World: A Step-by-Step Guide to Internet Safety.
  4. Subscribe to my newsletter, if you haven't already.
  5. Follow my articles on Facebook and share them in your network. Share internet safety with your friends.
share this page