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An emoji person reading an orange book with ominous emojis above their head Kids and Technology

What is Wattpad? A Parent’s Guide to the Platform

Haley Zapal  |  November 18, 2020

Emoji reading from a book with the Wattpad logo wondering what is Wattpad.

Content warning: This post discusses potentially triggering issues including sexual content, sexual assault, and incest.

Does your child love getting lost in their favorite universes — immersive worlds like the ones found in Harry Potter, Star Wars, Marvel, and more? Do they love writing about these worlds or making up awesome new adventures straight from their imagination? If the answer to these questions is yes, you may want to learn more about what Wattpad is all about.

"What is Wattpad?" you may ask. Well, this app and website is an incredibly popular social storytelling platform where users can post their original stories and read the works of others. More than 90 million people use Wattpad every month, and if you’re wondering how that can be possible if you’ve never even heard of it, don’t worry — we’ll explain it all.

What is Wattpad?

Founded in 2006, Wattpad is a website (and an app) that aims to build a community for people who love to read and write. 90% of its users are between the ages of 13 and 35, and the majority are women. 

For readers, there are stories available for any taste and in any genre. Many users browse by categories like Fan Fiction, Mystery, Paranormal, Werewolf, and LGBTQ+. For writers, Wattpad adds an air of legitimacy to the writing process, enabling the uploading of creative content in a stylish format so that others can find it easily. You can even design book covers to make it feel more realistic. Stories are voted on for quality, and users can see stats like the number of views, favorites, and more. Some of the most popular works have hundreds of thousands of views, which is no easy feat for a free self-publishing website.

Wattpad And The Promise of Publication

The success of stories published on Wattpad goes far beyond just the usual social media accumulation of likes and views. 17-year-old Beth Reekles earned a real-life book deal from her runaway Wattpad success of The Kissing Booth. Netflix purchased the rights shortly thereafter and made it into a popular film. Multiple deals — including recent success After — have followed for other writers on Wattpad since then, and they show no sign of slowing down. On the way to this level of success, there’s also the chance for writers to be paid for their stories on the platform.

It’s easy to see how this could entice kids to spark their creativity and compose stories that could lead to fame and fortune. And while we can all probably agree that it’s generally a good thing when kids want to take pen to paper (or, in this case, thumb to screen), Wattpad has a dark side that parents need to know about. 

Inappropriate Content is Rampant on Wattpad

One of the most popular genres on Wattpad is romance, which often leads to a rating of “Mature” on the site. Stories tagged as Mature can include: 

  • Explicit sex scenes
  • Self-harm themes or scenes (including suicide and eating disorders)
  • Graphic depictions of violence; including but not limited to: sexual, verbal, emotional, and physical abuse

Unfortunately, despite this rating system, no content on Wattpad is age-gated, which means kids of all ages can read these stories. When you take a deeper look into Wattpad’s content guidelines for its users, it seemingly bans lots of other potentially harmful subjects. To sidestep the Wattpad restrictions, many writers and commenters will get around the rules by purposely misspelling or asterisking explicit words. 

However, like any site with user-generated content, identifying and removing stories that violate the terms can take time, which means that they’ll be up and able to be read for a while. Other potential subjects that kids may encounter include depictions of incest, toxic relationships, predation, and torture.  

Dangers Kids May Face on Wattpad

Some writers may use Wattpad to express dark and dysfunctional parts of their lives as a way to heal, but kids that stumble across these types of stories on Wattpad may not be emotionally prepared to handle the subject matter. Kids struggling with disordered eating, for example, may be triggered by graphic descriptions of anorexia — it may even encourage them to engage in such behavior. 

Another danger is the glorification of predatory or incestuous relationships, including student/teacher, daddy/daughter, or daddy/son situations. These stories can make kids think these types of relationships are OK, when in actuality they’re illegal and highly dangerous. 

Also, it’s important to remember that Wattpad is a social platform, so there’s always a chance that strangers could open lines of communication with kids — both in DMs and in story comments. Because Wattpad is about showcasing writing skills, predators often use flattery and compliments as a way into kids’ lives, making them feel special while putting them at ease.

According to Wattpad’s terms of service, users must be 13 or older to get an account. This doesn’t mean that it’s appropriate for all kids, though. Talk with your child about their desire to use Wattpad as well as your concerns and the dangers involved. Ask them if they know what Wattpad is known for. At the end of the day, encouraging your kids to write can be a great thing — as long as they know they can always come to you if they find something that makes them feel uncomfortable online. Additionally, you can take advantage of Bark, an app to help keep your child safe online with our content monitoring feature. 

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

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