The Whisper app allows users to quickly and anonymously share their feelings or thoughts with catchy photos or videos. Even though users are anonymous, the location sharing feature in this app helps users connect with other users nearby. Whispers can quickly escalate into off-app communications and dangerous situations.
Parents, school resource officers, and counselors must be aware of the Whisper app.
What is the Whisper app?
- Whisper encourages users to share “real thoughts and feelings, forge relationships and engage in conversations on an endless variety of topics-without identities or profiles” (Whisper)
- Users create a Whisper by typing their text and selecting stock photos/videos or uploading their own media for the background
- To view Whispers from others, users can select to view Whispers from Groups, Popular, Nearby, or Latest
- Whispers in the Nearby view show how close the other user is (for example: 1 mile)
- To see another user’s age, gender, and specific location in a chat, users must complete a “Chat profile.” But, there is no verification process that what a user has entered is real
- Users can search for Groups and add a specific school location. Whispers in school groups can be seen only when the user is on school grounds. (Or, near enough to school the app thinks your location is on school grounds)
- Whisper has Community Guidelines. Users are warned that “Whisper and Law Enforcement actively monitor the service.” The Community Guidelines are “Don’t be mean. Don’t be gross. Don’t use Whisper to break the law.” (Whisper Community Guidelines )
Why do students want to use Whisper?
- They think they can share anything “anonymously”
- Sometimes, they believe their anonymous friends understand them like no one else
- Some feel sharing silly photos and messages is harmless
- Students think they are being sneaky to send a Whisper in their school group and only other students see it
- Online: http://whisper.sh/
- Apple App Store: 17+
- Google Play: T (Teen)
- Owned by: MediaLab.AI based in Santa Monica, California
Whisper in the news
Concerns over these apps largely focus on their anonymity, because they let people talk with limited accountability. But they’re also risky because they usually become popular by surprise.Washington Post
Whisper can provide various information to law enforcement, including location, chat log timestamps, the content of whispers and IP address.Forbes
Whisper, the secret-sharing app that called itself the ‘safest place on the Internet,’ left years of users’ most intimate confessions exposed on the Web tied to their age, location and other details, raising alarm among cybersecurity researchers that users could have been unmasked or blackmailed.Wired
According to court documents, [the man] said he had… sexual conversations with more than five underage girls on the Whisper app. The social media app allows users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously.East Idaho News
Why should parents & educators care?
- Users can set a PIN for the app. Therefore, parents may not be able to access their student’s Whispers, even if they can access the phone
- Anonymous Whispers can incite bullying and low-self esteem, especially in a group like a school or where students gather
- Without age verification, anyone can pose as a teenager on the app
- Predators use the app to build students’ trust to get them to share anything with them. Then, they eventually convince them to send inappropriate photos or meet in person
- Posting anonymously often encourages teens to post ideas they would not normally say to people they know
- The app has a “Clean Language” setting. However, it is not perfect and teens may still come across slang or photos with inappropriate meanings
What can parents do?
- Ask your student if they, or their friends, use Whisper. If they do, talk about why they feel it is the best app to meet their goals online
- Research other appropriate apps or sources teenagers can use to express their ideas or feelings
- Talk with your students about the dangers of talking to strangers, even “anonymously” online
- Remind students to not share personal identification information in their Whispers or chats
- Join the SmartSocial VIP (Very Informed Parent) membership to learn how to start conversations about shining online with your students
In conclusion, Whisper is an app that parents should strongly discourage students from using. Consider helping them find appropriate apps or communication channels for teens to express their feelings. School resource officers and counselors should have an idea of what Groups are active in their school.