Social Media Apps, a parent’s guide.
Social media is now used by many individuals and organisations worldwide. It is a fast, often free and easily accessible way to network and share information with others. It is often fun, and a great way to interact with your friends individually online or in groups, as well as providing a venue to meet new people. Most applications allow you to share text, photos and videos privately or openly as well as providing the ability to stream live video across the worldwide web. Despite the built in safety mechanisms, the ability to block people and control what others see, it can be risky to those who do not it with caution.
Most social media platforms have a minimum age restriction of 13 years old, but should children really be interfacing with such unregulated sites at any age? Something that should be considered is that majority of these applications are unregulated and content can be shared by, and with anyone. Content is often the opinion of an individual, and doesn’t not need to be factually correct. Followers and pages can be blocked, and personal settings can be adjusted to provide as much protection online as possible, and software developers continually work to improve online safety but there are still many ways that inappropriate content and messages can be shared to those who are vulnerable.
Here is the lowdown on some of the most common social media platforms used by children, including where you can get more information and online safety.
Facebook was originally created in America as a way of sharing information by 2 students while at college, and has become one of the largest social media platforms today. It has almost 2 billion users worldwide and is very popular with children and adults and businesses alike. Facebook is a free site that allows users to create personal profile pages, as well as being able to follow and interact with other users and group pages. You can write on your friends walls, share text, images and videos instantaneously. You can also stream live video. Facebook Messenger is a stand alone chat function of Facebook, and is a way of sending instant messages to individuals or groups privately. Facebook is continuously working to improve user safety; however, it can be dangerous for children if left unsupervised. Content is not always truthful and strangers can request to be your ‘friend’. Individual profiles can also be created which may not be genuine, or could have the potential to share inappropriate content. More information on internet safety and Facebook can be found at:
Twitter is an online news and social microblogging networking site where users can post messages and interact with others. It is used by over 330 million users worldwide. Posts are known as ‘Tweets’ and can be up to 280 characters in length. Like Facebook and other platforms, Twitter can also be used to send private messages, post and share photos, videos and text. Content is often unregulated, as it is instantly posted by users. Twitter is a great place to find out news as well as being able to interact and communicate with others. In the user settings it is possible to protect your account and to stop people from sending you direct messages. Unfortunately, as anyone can tweet anything, offensive and inappropriate material can be stumbled across by users. Children should be supervised at all times to help keep them safe. More information on Twitter and online safety can be found at:
Instagram is an online photo and video sharing application. Users have a profile and a news feed, like many other sites and trending content can be found using hashtags. Instagram is becoming increasingly popular with young people and has over 800 million users. Instagram is a great way to see what your friends are doing and has built in privacy settings so that you can control who see’s your activity. You can also block followers as needed. As with all other social media platforms, children need to be supervised as content is not restricted and inappropriate and inaccurate images can be easily stumbled across. Here are some helpful guides for parents on Instagram:
WhatsApp – This social media site provides a free online messaging service, where users can send each other direct messages, photos, videos in addition to providing the ability to call and video call other members. It have over 450 million monthly users, with over 1 million new users every day. The minimum age is 13, but this does not put off younger users. WhatsApp also have a feature that shares your live location for up to 8 hours in one go, with a contact or group. This could be beneficial to parents, but is also a worry as children could disclose to strangers where they are. It is possible for strangers to see profile details, so parental supervision is a must. Like the other sites, people can be blocked and privacy settings can be adjusted.
Snapchat is a unique application that allows the user to take and send photos and videos, which then disappear from the recipients phone up to 10 seconds after they are viewed, and has over 173 million daily users. Photos can be easily edited prior to sending. With the Lenses function, which is highly popular, you can now take photos with themes. For example, you can add ears, nose, a tongue and paws to your photo to create a cartoon dog effect, there are effects to change your voice or even turn you into a pop star. Snapchat stories is another function that allows you to share recent snaps for up to 24 hours. These can be publicly available to all users. The new memories function now allows users to upload images and store them in a password protected folder. Snapmap is a relatively recent addition to the software, that allows users to see where their contact’s current locations are. This could be useful when trying to locate your friend at an event, but could also be taken advantage of and used inappropriately.
All social media should be used safely, and security measures put in place to protect your profile. It is important to talk with your children about internet safety and help them to stay safe. The NSPCC has some helpful guides on how to talk with your children about this subject, and encourages boundaries to be put in place as well as talking openly and regularly. More information can be found at:
If you are worried about your child’s online safety please call the NSPCC Online Safety Helpline, which is 0808 800 5002. They will be able to guide you on how to adjust privacy settings, parental controls and can provide valuable and trustworthy advice.