WhatsApp - court ruling emphasizes parental responsibility for use by minors

The decision of the Bad Hersfeld family court has been the subject of heated debate in recent days. What problems arise when using WhatsApp? What do parents have to consider when their children use WhatsApp?

In its ruling of May 15, 2017, the Bad Hersfeld District Court ordered a mother to obtain consent forms from all phone numbers entered in her child's smartphone or delete the app from her child's smartphone. The guiding principles to the ruling state, among other things:

"Anyone who uses the messenger service "WhatsApp" continuously transmits data in clear data form from all contact persons entered in their own smartphone address book to the company behind the service in accordance with the technical specifications of the service.

Anyone using "WhatsApp" who allows this continuous transfer of data without first obtaining permission from their contacts in their own telephone address book is committing a tortious act against these persons and runs the risk of being warned by the persons concerned at their expense.

If children or young people under the age of 18 use the messenger service "WhatsApp", the parents as custodians have a duty to inform their child about this danger when using the messenger service and to take the necessary protective measures in the interests of their child." (Source: Hessenrecht Landesrechtsprechungsdatenbank)

The most important questions about WhatsApp use are answered below. Further information on the messenger can be found in the WhatsApp topic area on klicksafe.de.

What is problematic about the use of WhatsApp?
WhatsApp is criticized for passing on user data to the parent company Facebook. In addition to one's own phone number and usage times, the user's metadata can also be collected. This includes who you communicate with and how often, or which groups you are in within WhatsApp. If you use WhatsApp, you have to be aware that the application accesses the address book of your cell phone. Because this is the only way that the principle of WhatsApp works: the identification of the contacts who own WhatsApp is done via the data from the address book and only this way it is possible to communicate with all of one's contacts via WhatsApp. WhatsApp therefore also passes on the phone numbers of all contacts from its own address book - even if they do not use WhatsApp. If you also have a Facebook or Instagram account, even more precise conclusions about user behavior can be drawn from the combination of data from different services. This data can later be used for personalized advertising, among other things. Detailed information on privacy and big data can be found in the topic area of the same name at klicksafe.de.

What is the minimum age for WhatsApp?

WhatsApp lowered the minimum age from 16 to 13 in August 2016 when it updated its terms of use. On 25.04.2018, the minimum age for users in the European region was increased again to 16 years. Users must therefore now be at least 16 years old to use the service. For under-16s, their legal guardians must consent to their use. However, before downloading the application, it does not check whether users are at least 16 years old or not. Detailed information on the minimum age for WhatsApp can be found in the news article on klicksafe.de.

How can you restrict the app's access rights?
In the klicksafe WhatsApp topic area, there are instructions on how to restrict WhatsApp access rights on the smartphone. However, restricting access rights also restricts the app's functions (e.g. sending voice messages, etc.).

What are the alternatives to WhatsApp?
It is worth looking into the alternatives to WhatsApp, which offer users many communication options within a secure framework. Information on alternative messengers can be found in the WhatsApp topic area on klicksafe.de.

Parents can also findtips and information onmedia education, including social services and messengers, in the klicksafe parents' area.

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