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.
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 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 . “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 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.|
|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.|
|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.|
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.|