WhatsApp: Kids are using it like crazy

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It embarked as an alternative to standard text messaging. Eight years later, WhatsApp is among the most popular messaging apps.

The app boasts more than one billion users in one hundred eighty countries, suggesting a combination of text messaging with the capability to send everything from photos and movies to documents. There are other cool perks, too, such as the capability to make movie and voice calls.

But as with any app where you are sharing information, there are pitfalls to consider if you’re a worried parent with kids who use WhatsApp. Let’s break it down:

What is WhatsApp?

It’s a messaging app named after the phrase "what’s up." It’s a quicker, lighter take on text messaging, permitting users to quickly share photos, movies, even documents. It blends some elements of movie apps like FaceTime, such as the capability to make a movie or voice call.

Setup is pretty ordinary. Users just confirm their phone number and they can embark using it. The app leverages your phone contacts, so you add friends, family and other people as you would any contact on your device. Messages are encrypted end to end, which means only the sender and recipient can see them.

How popular is it?

It’s consistently among the top twenty five overall apps on both Apple’s App Store and Google Play over the past year, according to data from analytics stiff App Annie. As of publishing, WhatsApp is the third most popular social networking app on Apple’s store, behind Facebook Messenger and Facebook. (By the way, Facebook also wields WhatsApp).

Why is it so popular?

One key benefit is the capability to make voice or movie calls using data instead of talk or text minutes. On many plans, text and talk is unlimited so it’s not a big deal. But for those with minute or texting limitations, WhatsApp can help you save a little money.

It’s also effortless to set up and use. If you’re convenient text messaging, then WhatsApp shouldn’t be a problem. There are also cool features like broadcast, where you can send a message to a group of people, but they can only react to the sender.

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Should I worry about my kids using it?

As with text messaging, the real concern is over what your kids share. Is it joy conversation with friends, or something inappropriate for their age? Of course, text messaging means kids might use acronyms to hide what they’re truly talking about. There’s also the option for users to send photos and movie, as with text messaging, opening the door for more inappropriate conduct.

One big plus for WhatsApp: it’s tied to your cell phone number. With most social apps, there’s a discovery element where you can seek out random users. Unless your kid is loosely handing out their phone number, it’s rough to just find someone at random.

How can I protect them?

The visible one is talking to kids about who has access to their phone number. Make sure they’re aware of any boundaries set on who can call or text them.

Also, talk to your kids about what they share with friends. Discuss what you consider suitable information to share with friends.

WhatsApp also features privacy settings to let users determine whether to display information like their profile photo, bio, status or the last time they were on WhatsApp. Options are Everyone, My Contacts or Nobody.

Do you know what your kids are texting?

Here are abbreviations that are commonly used in texts. Some are virginal and you most likely use them.

LOL = laugh(ing) out noisy

IRL = in real life

TYVM = thank you very much

IMHO = in my discreet opinion

BRB = be right back

J/K = just kidding

WYD= what you doing?

Others might surprise you with their meaning.

53X = sneaky way to type "hook-up"

KMS = kill myself

LH6 = let’s have hookup

KYS = kill yourself

MOS = mom over the shoulder

POS = parent over shoulder

CD9 = code 9, parents around

GNOC = get naked on camera.

99 = parents are gone

WTTP = want to trade photos?

LMIRL = let’s meet in real life

1174 = meet at a party spot

ADR = what’s your address

PAL= parents are listening

TWD = texting while driving

By Jennifer Jolly, Special for USA Today

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