WhatsApp are rolling out a new disappearing messages feature as part of their latest app update. When I first saw a headline about it, to be honest my heart sank - I've seen so many children struggle to understand the impact of messages that effectively disappear on other platforms (here's looking at you Snapchat) - as soon as they can no longer see them they very quickly become blind to their impact on others. But thankfully this isn't nearly as dramatic as that and is clearly intended as a feature for tidying up adult chats. It's still one for parents to keep an eye on though.

After you or your child have updated the app they will be asked whether they want to enable disappearing messages on each individual or group app. Enabling means that messages disappear after 7 days and not immediately. Snapchat, on the other hand, deletes Snaps after they've been opened, deletes unopened Snaps sent to a group chat in 24 hours, and all other unopened Snaps in 30 days.

The 'Disappearing Messages' feature has to be enabled separately for each chat window — whether an individual or group conversation — and can be accessed by clicking the name of the individual contact or the group on WhatsApp. When enabled, the new messages sent by a user will disappear for the selected contacts after seven days.

So what do parents need to know:

- how this feature works so they can go through it with their children.

- to make sure their child knows they don't have to enable disappearing messages and you may prefer to suggest that they don't use the feature.

- if your child receives a nasty or concerning message in a chat with disappearing messages enabled - they can and should still screenshot it to save it. They can also forward the messages to a new chat window with the disappearing messages option turned off - that way they wont be removed.

- they need to make sure their child also knows that these messages never actually disappear although they appear to, in a particularly horrendous case of online bullying, for example, it is possible to get disclosure of messages from the app

- when a user replies to a disappearing message, the quoted text might also remain in the chat after seven days.

- Disappearing messages will also land in user backups but will be deleted after the user restores messages from it.

UK banks today releasied their top 10 current phishing scams:

1. Fake government emails offering grants of up to £7,500. Clicking on the links allows scammers to steal personal and financial information

2. Scam emails offering access to "Covid-19 relief funds"

3. Official-looking emails offering a "council tax reduction" 4. Benefit recipients are offered help in applying for universal credit, but fraudsters grab some of the payment as an advance for their "services" 5. Phishing emails claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19 6. Fake adverts for non-existent coronavirus-related products 7. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, offering six months free but asking people to update their payment information 8. Emails asking people to update their TV subscription services payment details by clicking on a link 9. Fake profiles on social media sites are used to manipulate victims into handing over their money 10. Fake investment opportunities are advertised on social media sites, encouraging victims to "take advantage of the financial downturn"

and phishing scams in general having escalated during lockdown - our friend and Cybersecurity Expert - Ian Harris, Head of the Cybersecurity Course at Robert Gordon's University in Aberdeen, has provided us with this advice to share.


When you receive an email check the following:

FROM: It’s not some from someone I normally have contact with It’s really unusual to get an email from this person It is from a person or organisation I usually get emails from BUT the from address is strange or not quite what I expect this person to send from (hover over the email address to check the return email - watch for missing letters, it may be only out by one letter or digit or a very tiny alteration) TO: It was sent to me and an unusual list of other people SUBJECT: The subject line is misleading or not related to the message The subject line is badly spelt, or with lots of numbers replacing letters. The subject line looks like a RE: reply message, but I didn’t send one first ATTACHMENTS: There’s an attachment I wasn’t expecting The attachment is a ‘dangerous file type’, you can only really trust .txt text documents CONTENT: The message is really short, doesn’t make sense, with a link to click The message has one or many spelling mistakes The message doesn’t address me by name, just ‘Customer, Sir, Madam, User’ The link in the message isn’t the normal address for the destination it claims to be The content is trying to make me do something, scare me, or worry me,  a ‘call-to-action’, click a link or reply. The content claims to know something about me, trying to embarrass me. I just have a gut feeling, somethings not right about this message. And if you receive an email pressing you to act... Whatever happens, take a moment, read it twice, think about what it’s really trying to get you to do. An email never needs immediate action, they’d phone you if it was really important. You don’t have to trust the content of an email. And if they do phone you, hang-up, wait 5 minutes. Google search for the contact details, call or email them. Ian Harris Lecturer School of Computing Science and Digital Media, RGU

We work with many parents who say they can't get their children off their phones and many children who wish they could get their parents off their phones. A simple tip to reduce that number of times you are tempted to pick your phone up is to turn it grey! Studies have shown that turning the screen to greyscale significantly reduces how attractive it is to the human brain and some studies have shown a reduction in stress levels as a result from using the device in black and white.

Have a try and see whether it helps you or your family. Here's a 45 second video showing how to change the settings on a iphone. Let us know how you get on!

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