Keeping up with what the kids are up to online can be confusing. So here is a guide to the most popular social networks from Nadine Hill of JuggleMum.
Snapchat is a photo messaging app with a twist: users can take photos, record video, add text and drawings and then send them to people. These ‘Snaps’ aren’t saved by default so it feels like you are socialising without leaving a trail. Once the Snap has been viewed, the Snapchat system will auto-delete it. Users can post a ‘story’ on Snapchat too which is a Snap that anyone can view and will delete 24 hours after it has been uploaded. This means viewers could see the Snap more than once within the 24-hour period. People over the age of 13 are allowed to use Snapchat with 13 to 17-year-olds requiring permission from their parent or guardian. But this doesn’t stop under-13s creating accounts. If Snapchat obtains knowledge that a user is under 13 they will terminate their account.
Users find their friends in Snapchat and add them to be able to Snapchat. You can go through your phone contacts to see who else has Snapchat and if one of your contacts doesn’t have it you can invite them by SMS. If you don’t want to be found on Snapchat then tap the ghost icon and tap the gear icon in the upper right hand corner. Tap ‘Mobile Number’ and untick ‘Allow my friends to find me’ to unlink your phone number. Users like Snapchat as you can send photos and videos for free over Wi-Fi, whereas sending a photo message by text will cost money.
Warning: Snapchat may feel safe to use as images or messages sent are deleted once they have been seen. But this doesn’t stop the receiver of a message from taking a screenshot of it on their phone before it is deleted. The best way to keep your kids safe using Snapchat is to educate them: explain that nothing ever really goes away on the internet and advise them never share anything on Snapchat that they would be embarrassed for you to see. Or do the ‘Grandma’ test. Tell them: ‘Would Grandma be proud if she saw this Snap?’ It allows pause for thought before they send anything they might regret.
Snapchat is about sharing moments and having fun. To report a Snap that is against the rules, you can use this link: Report inappropriate content
Facebook allows users to share status updates, photos, videos and games. Facebook users must be over 13. It is important that teenagers using Facebook use their real date of birth when creating the account as Facebook has extra layers of safety and privacy features for users aged 13-18 to further protect them. Users over 18 can change their privacy settings manually and decide whether to make their posts public or friends only. But new users aged 13-18 will have a default privacy setting for sharing content with ‘friends’ only.
Having an online social life can be a big responsibility so it’s important to judge whether your child is mature enough to be able to handle the complexities of these social negotiations. Group dynamics, jockeying for status and online romance are complex for adults to master, so an awareness of what is going on for your child on Facebook is advisable. Allowing your child to use Facebook should include having you as a contact so you can keep an eye on things.
Instagram is an app that allows the user to share photos and videos taken with their mobile phone with anyone who follows them. You can set an account to private which restricts viewing of your photos to people who you have approved to follow you, and you can choose to block individuals so they can’t see your profile or posts.
Instagram uses pictures as the main medium to communicate (with the ability to add words). This is different to Facebook or Twitter which are usually word-led but with the ability to add pictures. This subtle but important distinction means that generally the Instagram environment can be a very happy place, as users can relate to photos in different ways.
Your followers tend to ‘like’ your photo and/or add a comment but discussion rarely takes place. The main annoyance on Instagram is unwanted comments (for example spam comments) and the way to delete any comments is to tap on the comment speech bubble under the photo then swipe to the left over any comment you wish to delete. Then tap and choose if you want to ‘delete’ or ‘delete and report abuse’.
This is a fast-moving network where you can broadcast your thoughts/status update in 140 characters or less, add a photo and engage in conversations with people who you follow or who follow you. It is also increasingly a place for breaking news and real-time reporting.
Most of the time Twitter is used for live status updates, chat and sharing links. However, if someone decides to create an offensive hashtag and it gains traction (which is easy to do on Twitter) others could join the bandwagon without realising what this hashtag is about. Cyberbullying is something to be aware of whenever children are on the internet, but it could very quickly spread on a network like Twitter. You can delete comments and block users, and if you need to report something you can do this very easily by using the ‘Report’ drop-down menu which is found in the “…” button which is next to the ‘Favourite’ star. Cyberbullying is now more common than face-to-face bullying among 9-16 year olds (source: EU Kids Online 2014).
Having conversations about what young people are doing online is part of modern parenting. Don’t just leave them to it because you are not sure about the different online tools they use.
For more e-safety tips and about my visit to the Child Internet Safety Summit, read Keeping Our Kids Safe Online.
Words and images by Nadine Hill