What is Wattpad?
App Store description: “At Wattpad, we’re connecting a global community through the power of the story. On Wattpad, you’ll find all the stories to keep you hooked! Discover stories and books created by writers around the world! Whatever you’re into—whether it’s romance, science fiction, mystery, comedy, action adventure, fantasy, young adult fiction, or fanfiction—you’ll find it all on Wattpad.” (Copied from Apple App Store)
APP Store rating (iPhones): You must be at least 17 years old to download this app.
- (Infrequent/Mild Alcohol, Tobacco, or Drug Use or References, Infrequent/Mild Horror/Fear Themes, Frequent/Intense Mature/Suggestive Themes, Infrequent/Mild Sexual Content and Nudity, Infrequent/Mild Profanity or Crude Humor (App Store)
What do parents need to know about Wattpad?
Wattpad updated their app to deliver better safety for those under 17. We were featured in an article on Forbes that highlighted issues on Wattpad, and these changes came shortly after. Issues and risks are still here, but these changes show that they listening and the improvements being added are moving in the right direction.
The range of content appropriateness is massive. We read the first chapter of the first book under teen fiction. There was a high school party, the main character’s two friends were drunk, the main character had found her boyfriend in bed with another girl, the main character alluding to her bisexuality, physical abuse from the main character’s ex-boyfriend, a drunken fight, and profanity. All in 5 minutes of reading!
However, we also came across a lovely collection of poems and an interesting medical sci-fi novel.
Comments on stories can be anything. Any user can comment on a Wattpad story, and it doesn’t appear that the author can moderate comments. Therefore, if your child posts a story, then they may be criticized and subject to inappropriate language. If your child reads a story and looks at the comments, then they will be exposed to inappropriate language.
Labels for sexual content aren’t moderated. Wattpad expects that authors will mark their story as mature if it contains the following themes: explicit sex scenes, self-harm, and graphic violence.
(Side note: when I fake published some gibberish, there was no option for marking the story as mature. The requirements to publish are selecting a category and adding tags so it will come up in a search. Therefore, the author would need to tag the story as mature).
Only users over 17 years are able to view stories tagged in this way (however it would be easy to put in a fake birthday when registering). There are also many authors that have not marked their stories as mature.
Some stories/novels will have a warning from the author about sexually explicit content. Some won’t. In my opinion, sexually explicit content is the norm for the following categories: Billionaire, ChickLit, General Fiction, LGBT+, Newadult, Paranormal, Short Story, and Vampire.
There is an incredible amount of content on this app. You don’t have to really search to find adult themes (sex, extreme violence, rape, etc.). A lot of the ‘book’ covers have racy pictures, and even if the description doesn’t include a warning, a picture speaks a thousand words!
Searching for book titles can be risky. Even an innocuous search term like family brings up inappropriate content. The image below shows the first four results in Wattpad. The first result has a warning from the author about using the term ‘gay’ as an insult and using race stereotypes. You can see in the second result that the author states there is strong sexual content. The third and fourth results do not have any warnings from the authors in the descriptions about adult themes. However, from the descriptions the content may still be inappropriate for a 17-year-old.
Wattpad in the news. Wattpad was in the news last fall when a Hulu show based off of a Wattpad book premiered. The book called Light as a Feather was first published on Wattpad and quickly gained popularity on the app. It was turned into a 10 episode show and met negative reviews.
What about privacy on the app? Name, email, gender, and birth date are required to set up an account. You can always opt not to disclose personal information to them (except for email), but then certain features may not be available. If you sign up through third parties like Facebook or Google, then name, email, gender, and birth date will be shared with Wattpad.
By default a user’s profile picture, username, and display name are public. A user can also make their location public. A user can also link a Google, Facebook, Twitter, or Tumblr account to their Wattpad profile, and this will be made public. In addition, a user’s activity feed, reading lists, and stories are public (with no way to make them private). A user can also delete actions from their activity feed.
Are there hidden browser doorways in Wattpad? Yes. If you go into settings, there are links in the About Wattpad or Help Center for Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube all launch within the app bypassing any kind of search or viewing restrictions in place on the device. Instagram will launch the Instagram app if you have it loaded onto the phone. If you don’t, then it will be opened within the Wattpad app. There is no search bar available, but you are able to click hashtags as well as profiles and any links in those profiles. Authors can also link to YouTube or a URL in their story.
The moral of the story with hidden browsers on Wattpad is that anyone with a touch of savviness would be able to find whatever content he/she wanted in those social media platforms.
Bottom line – is Wattpad safe for kids?
Apple’s age requirement is spot on. We do not recommend Wattpad for users under 17. Honestly, you do not even have to look to find inappropriate content. Some parents have a joint account with their child, but they will still be exposed to explicit book descriptions and cover art.
Now What? Have you Heard of Bark?
Are you interested in having greater insight into the social media platforms that your kids are using? Bark is one of the best platforms we’ve tested. They’re constantly looking for ways to dig further into social media apps, iMessage, YouTube, and more, allowing kids to use these digital platforms while only alerting parents when necessary. We trust them and we think you should, too!
*There are affiliate links throughout this post because we’ve tested and trust a small list of parental control solutions. Our work saves you time! If you decide that you agree with us, then we may earn a small commission, which does nothing to your price. Enjoy!