WhatsApp - risks and tips

On the Internet, too, you should know the "places" where children and young people move. Chat partners are not always who they say they are. Whether in chat rooms or on social networks: Unfortunately, cybergrooming can never be ruled out. Perpetrators try to establish a trusting relationship with their victims, most of whom are minors, and then sexually abuse them. Make children and young people aware that sending personal data is irreversible.

It can be very upsetting for children and teens to be sent inappropriate content. However, it is also often class chats or the like in which such files are forwarded by the young people. Explain to children and young people that forwarding inappropriate or prohibited content is punishable by law.

The apparent anonymity and constant availability of the Internet lowers the inhibition threshold for insults, hatred and bullying. Cyberbullying then often manifests itself in the form of derisive comments on photos or insulting private messages - an unbearable situation for those affected. 

Tips for parents

On the website www.medien-kindersicher.de you will find instructions for the most important security settings of WhatsApp. To do this, simply select the child's device on the home page (for example, "smartphone"), the correct operating system ("Android" or "iOS") and then "WhatsApp".

Often, disputes among friends or a problematic class situation are behind bullying attacks. Talk to your child and inform the teacher if necessary to find a solution together. Use the "Block" function and take screenshots of the comments or pictures together with your child. In the event of threats of violence or physical assaults, call the police!

In general, children and young people should break off contact immediately if the chat partners' questions become unpleasant or they feel pressured. Advise your child at an early stage never to meet an online acquaintance alone. You can use the klicksafe poster to address warning signals in ch ats and make your child aware of the dangers in chats.

Make your child aware that forwarding inappropriate or prohibited content is punishable by law. In case of inappropriate content, he/she should report and delete it as soon as possible. To protect yourself from such images and videos, you can disable the automatic download function.

In the past, it has happened time and again that WhatsApp users were added to group chats by unknown persons. Illegal content was then posted in the chats, which also ended up on the cell phones of unsuspecting people due to the automatic download (see Disable automatic download).

The easiest way to protect yourself from this situation is to configure WhatsApp right away so that only people from your own contact list are allowed to add you to group chats. To do this, go to Settings > Account > Privacy > Groups. Under the item "These people can add me to groups", "Everyone" is selected in the default settings. Here you should now select "My contacts" or add more exceptions under "My contacts except ...".

You have set WhatsApp so that you or your child can not be added to group chats easily? However, you may still receive invitations. You need to be careful here. You should only accept invitations if you know the sender well or are expecting an invitation. Invitations from unknown people can hide deceptive attempts or chats with illegal and even criminal content. By automatically downloading media, links and documents (see Disable automatic download), illegal content can unintentionally end up on your own cell phone.

When you receive an invitation, you are given the options to join the group, report it, block it, or add the person who invited you to your contact list. If you are unsure who the invitation is from, use the Report or Block function.

If you or your child have accidentally joined a group after all, you can also leave it afterwards and report it to WhatsApp. In the settings, select the bottom item "More" and in the next menu you can select "Report" or "Leave group" .

Before forwarding images or videos, the right to one's own image should always be observed. In general, every image is subject to copyright and therefore a warning is possible in case of unsolicited use.