Social Networking and Popular Apps
Social Networking and Young People
Young people’s use of the internet has increased dramatically in recent years, with 96% of 9-16 year olds using the internet daily. Young people use the internet for a wide range of purposes, from completing school work, communicating with friends to watching videos and playing games.
Social networking sites have played a huge part in changing the way young people interact with others and they use them as a platform to learn, share views and demonstrate their creativity.
However, they could also be vulnerable to many risks and it exposes them to experiences which they may find upsetting such as:
- Bullying online (cyberbullying)
- Sharing too much information
- Vulnerability to predatory adults
- Sharing videos or photographs that they later regret
- Exposure to age-innapproprite material
- Risk of identify theft
In a recent survey by the NSPCC, they found out that 28% of 11-16 year olds had experienced upsetting encounters on social media sites:
- 37% being targeted by trolls
- 22% being excluded from social groups/friends
- 18% recieving aggressive or violent language
- 14% pressured into looking a certain way
- 12% cyberstalking
- 12% receiving unwanted sexual messages
- 10% experiencing racism
- 7% experiencing homophobia
- 3% encouraged to self harm
Young people maybe experts on using the internet, but they still need guidance and protection. To help keep them safe on social networks, make sure you continue talking about what they are doing online:
- Discuss and agree your expectations before they use any site, app or feature that allows them to communicate.
- Check the minimum age requirements.
- Talk to them about the dangers of oversharing information about themselves that they may regret – teach them to Think Before You Post.
- Encourage them to check the policies and privacy settings on any sites and apps they use.
- Remind them that the same rules apply online as they do at home or school – they shouldn’t post anything they wouldn’t say face-to-face.
- Check that your child knows how to block and report contacts.
- Discuss the use of parental controls.
With the proliferation of tablets and all the benefits they bring, children can potentially become exposed to apps that bring with them a degree of risk due to social networks. Many are clearly labelled as inappropriate for young people, but some that are can carry dangers: parents need to have a clear view of what apps are installed on their children’s devices, especially as some of the more risky such as Facebook often come pre-installed.
Here is a list of some apps that contain degrees of social networking and a short description with relevant information regarding safeguarding.
The Global Social Media Impact Study 2013 found that teens have “lost interest” for Facebook — in part because their parents and other adults have taken over the domain and because their peers engage in too much “drama” on the site. But Facebook still remains the top social media site among young people, who say that their peers continue to stay on the site so they don’t miss anything happening there. Your child may keep a profile on Facebook, but may be much more active on newer platforms. Meanwhile, Twitter use is rising among teens and WhatsApp being the first choice to send personal messages. See our page on Facebook for more information.
Twitter basically anyone to communicate with anyone with messages of 140 characters or less. Although heavily used worldwide for reputable purposes, it shares its platform with people who spam, troll, abuse, bully and share inappropriate images and videos. It also allows for private messaging and has large degree of anonymity. It is popular with teenagers due to the ability to follow friends and people in the media in the same stream. Due to its popularity and mainstream uses, it is closely integrated into many mobile platforms, often pre-installed on new device.
This app allows users to interact in a question-and-answer format — with friends, peers, and anonymous users alike.
The app is rated ages 13+ and some young people have used the app for hurtful cyberbullying that has been linked to suicides. Some Derbyshire schools have sent home letters calling for students to stop using ask.fm because of its use in several cyberbullying incidents leading to attempted suicides, and its loose regulation and lack of monitoring. The site added a button where users can report abuse after nationwide pressure, but some parents feel it’s too little, too late. Check out this Ask.fm Guide for Parents and Teachers
This hugely popular photo-sharing site is owned by Facebook, so you may be more familiar with it than with other photo-sharing apps. Users can add cool filters or create collages of their photos and share them across Facebook and other social media platforms. The app is rated 13+ and may be slightly tamer than Tumblr, but users can still find mature or inappropriate content and comments throughout the app (there is a way to flag inappropriate content for review). “Trolls” — or people making vicious, usually anonymous comments — are common. A user can change the settings to block their location or certain followers, but many users are casual about their settings, connecting with people they don’t know well or at all. Check out A Parents’ Guide to Instagram
Many children and young teens are also active on this 17+ photo-sharing app. It can also be used for sharing videos and chatting. Users can easily access pornographic, violent, and inappropriate content. It should also be noted that users need to jump through hoops to set up privacy settings — and until then, all of a user’s photo and content is public for all to see. Mental health experts say that Tumblr can be damaging to adolescents’ mental health because it tends to glorify self-harm and eating disorders. See the safety rating for this site.
MySpace was the predecessor to Facebook and numbers of subscribers have reduced dramatically since its heyday, but now teens are heading back to this network and it’s a little more dangerous now that all of their parents are gone. If your child has a profile on MySpace then it’s important to check what the privacy settings are and who has access to the information. There is a Parent’s Guide.
The producers of Yik Yak call it “the anonymous social wall for anything and everything.” All users are anonymous (registration requires no personal information, other than a user’s location), and their posts are called “Yaks” and show up in a live feed for other users — or “Yakkers” — in their area. The app’s content-generation and moderation is entirely in the hands of its users (who can “vote” posts up or down in the news feed; after two “down” votes, a Yak disappears). The app is rated ages 17+ and targets college students, who can use it to spread the word about events or share their thoughts. But younger users are easily getting their hands on the app and using it to post hurtful comments and rumours about their peers.
Kik is a mobile app that people can use to text with friends at high speed and with more of a “face- to-face feel” than regular texting (users’ profile pictures appear in a little bubble next to their text, and they can quickly text photos, sketches, or even pre-designed greeting cards to individuals or groups). The app is rated ages 17+, but there is no age verification so anyone can download it. Like some other instant messenger apps, Kik allows your child to connect with others using just a username (rather than texting from their phone number). Reviews in the App Store and Google Play store reveal that many people use Kik to meet strangers or for sexting. Click for further information about Kik Messenger.
This walkie-talkie PTT (push-to-talk) app allows users to quickly exchange short voice messages. They can have chats going on with multiple people at a time and just have to tap the play button to hear any messages they receive. Although it largely has an adult following, it’s becoming popular among teens who enjoy its hybrid style of texting and talking. Hurtful messages from cyberbullies can be even more biting when they’re spoken and can be played repeatedly. Surprisingly, the app is rated ages 4+ in the App Store.
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos and videos that disappear from view within 10 seconds after they’re received. It’s rated ages 12+. Some young people are using the app to send risqué pics because they believe the images can’t be saved and circulated. But it turns out that Snapchat pics don’t completely disappear from a device, users can take a screenshot before an image vanishes in the app and other apps link to the Snapchat account and saves the pictures before it’s opened in Snapchat. For further information see ‘A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat’.
Poke is Facebook’s app that, similar to Snapchat, promises that photos sent will “self-destruct” within seconds after they’re received. While Poke isn’t nearly as popular as Snapchat, it is still gaining young users who can use it for sexting. Also like Snapchat, the images sent via Poke can be saved or viewed with certain workarounds. The App store rates it ages 4+ (but it is connected to Facebook, which is a 13+ site).
Vine is Twitter’s mobile app that allows users to shoot and share short loops of video (6 seconds or less). It’s rated 17+, but children and teens are still downloading it. As with any multimedia app, the content on Vine covers the spectrum. “With the most basic creative searching, young people can find nudity, sex, drug use, offensive language, hardcore sexuality, and more,” in a review of the app. “While there are plenty of fun videos, even adults might be shocked at some of the things they find.”
This 17+ app’s motto is: “Share Secrets, Express Yourself, Meet New People.” Whisper lets users set up anonymous accounts to make their messages or confessions overlap an image or graphic (similar to e-postcards), which other users can then “like,” share, or comment on. While it allows for creative expression, it can also take overly personal content viral. The app also shows a user’s location. Although the app is geared toward older teens and adults, younger children are finding their way to it and there are reports of children being groomed and exploited.
Shots of Me
Justin Bieber has invested in this 12+ “selfie-only” photo-sharing app in part because he was attracted to its “anti-trolling” aspect; it does not have a comment section under photos posted on the app. Instead of a public comment area, the app has a direct-messaging feature where users can only send private messages to one another. The anti-trolling feature might also help ward off cyberbullying among teens who like to put meanness on display (but teens could still be nasty via private message). The app does show a user’s location and how long ago a photo was added unless those features are managed in the app’s settings. Shots of Me is currently available only for Apple devices.
Omegle is an app for chatting with “random strangers.” When you open Omega, it chooses a random stranger for you to chat with. After meeting the stranger you can choose to keep talking or find someone else. Omegle can be used by adults to sexually exploit young people.
Chatroulette is an online chat website that pairs random people from around the world together for webcam-based conversations. Visitors to the website begin an online chat (text, audio, and video) with another visitor. At any point, either user may leave the current chat by initiating another random connection. There are many chatroulette alternative sites; Bazoocam, FunYo, Roulettechat, Quierochat, Dirtyroulette, Chatpig, Chatxroulette, Live Cam4, Manroulette, Tinychat, Facebuzz, Chatrad, Flipchat, Gaypage & Cam Girls, all child participation should be monitored.