The Brief: WhatsApp is a free messaging and chat app.

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DEEP DIVE

What’s Up With WhatsApp?

WhatsApp allows users to communicate over WiFi with family and friends all over the world, without paying for long distance phone fees. The app can be accessed on smartphones, tablets, and on computers through the WhatsApp web feature.

With over 1.5 billion monthly active users, WhatsApp is the largest messaging service in the world. In 2014, Facebook purchased the company for $19 billion.

WhatsApp in India

Of WhatsApp’s many users, about 200 million of its monthly active users live in India. The popular messaging app has been the tool of communication for many Indians, including when it involves crime, elections, and the proliferation of fake news.

Across India, fabricated, reactionary videos about child kidnappers and organ thieves spread on smartphones via WhatsApp. The hysteria surrounding this fake news has incited lynch mobs to kill two dozen innocent people. Since then, WhatsApp has been working to educate the Indian public about fake news, specifically as it spreads on the app. The company hired a grievance officer to deal with this dangerous spread of false information. 

Teen Use: Privacy and Safety

Teens may be attracted to WhatsApp because it allows them to communicate with their friends without using up their phone’s data and messaging plan. As with any other messaging app, there are risks of sexting, bullying, meeting strangers, and invasions of privacy.

Because it is more anonymous than texting via phone numbers, WhatsApp can be abused as a tool to spread false information and hide under a false identity. The situation in India and the use of WhatsApp in relation to Momo and other CreepyPasta scams highlights the importance of internet safety education, especially for children and teens.

To ensure that your kids are using WhatsApp safely, make sure that you have conversations with them about general online safety practices, media literacy, cyberbullying, and privacy.

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