WeChat can leave your child at risk of chatting to someone they don't know - Helen Westerman

In this week’s column, I would like to take a look at WeChat which, as many of us will know, is one of the world’s most popular social networks.

WeChat can leave your child at risk of chatting to someone they don't know - Helen Westerman

It has multiple features, including text, audio and video chat, games and location sharing. WeChat also has a feature called time capsule, which, similar to Instagram stories, lets you share short videos for 24 hours.

The makers have given WeChat an official age rating of 13+ and Net Aware, our website run in partnership with O2, has given the service an overall safety rating of average. WeChat is an all-in-one communications service with a variety of features to connect with other users around the world. There are parental controls and privacy settings available that will help to keep your child’s account private. However, there is still a risk your child could chat to someone they don’t know or come across something that upsets or confuses them.

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If you do let your child use the platform, you should explore the different features together and decide which ones are appropriate for them to use, perhaps agree some rules together. Some of the features you might want to discuss with them include Moments – this is similar to a Facebook newsfeed, where you can post images, text, share music and comment with friends. Another feature is Group chat which can have up to 50 people involved, but you can pay to add more people. There is also the Tickle feature where you can double tap on a friend's profile in a group or private chat and a tickle message will be displayed. Users can also use Shake which is where if you shake your phone you can be connected to anyone else around the world who is also shaking their phone.

These features make it easy to connect with people you don't know. Users can also search for 'people nearby', which shows other users up to 5km away. So, when exploring WeChat with your child please do check their account settings. I would also recommend changing how people can “add you”. By default, other users will be able to add you if they have your WeChat ID or mobile number. You can turn this off in the 'Methods for Friending Me' section of the privacy settings. But crucially when considering allowing your child to use WeChat it is important that, through your regular online safety chats, you are honest and open about your concerns but crucially they know they can always come to you if ever something upsets or worries them online.

And remember you can find more information about your child’s wider online world and the most popular apps, sites and games they’re using at www.net-aware.org.uk.