It’s natural to be concerned about what your child is getting up to online. It’s easier to keep an eye on them when they’re younger. You’ve got parental controls, child specific sections on streaming platforms and generally when they’re younger you’re in charge of their devices.
It’s a little harder to keep up with online usage once young people get into their tween and teenage years. They’ve got a whole computer in their pocket, access to the internet on the go and generally like to keep their social life private from their caregivers.
Here’s a list of social media sites and apps that are most popular with young people.
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram
These are the three main contenders when it comes to social media platforms. Believe it or not, Facebook is becoming less and less popular with young people (just when we thought we’d got to grips with that one)!
Facebook is the social networking site that you can share your comments, pictures and other content to a user’s profile. You can select a certain group of people, your ‘friends list’ to see your content or choose to share your content publicly.
Twitter is a social networking site designed to promote conversation and keep you up to date with the latest trends. This is where many people get their news as you ‘tweet’ in real time, and it’s public by default.
Instagram is largely a picture sharing website, but due to a recent format change it is becoming increasingly shopping focussed. Your profile can either be public or private and users can share ‘story’ content with a list of ‘close friends’ for 24 hours.
Whilst these are not necessarily social media apps that revolve around videos, all three have the option to share pictures and videos to the user’s profile. You can ‘go live’ on all three, meaning you’re open to real-time comments that the user could potentially do without like targeted bullying, mean or inappropriate comments from strangers or harassment.
You can change your privacy settings on all three apps. Facebook has the most options regarding who can see what on your profile down to individual posts, whereas Instagram and Twitter have the option to go completely private. You can learn here how to change your privacy options for these apps.
Snapchat is one of the most popular apps with children and young people over the last five years. Users can share pictures, videos and messages that are designed to ‘disappear’ once viewed. Much like many other apps it uses the ‘story’ feature to allows your contact list to see certain pictures or videos for 24hrs.
It’s important to warn users that while pictures do ‘disappear’ from chat logs etc, people can still screenshot (save these pictures) onto their own phone. It’s important for young people to know that everything on the internet can be traced back!
Video sharing social networking sites like Omegle have been around since 2009, similar to Chatroulette.
The website is a chatroom that links two strangers together either via just text or if you both choose to use your camera- by camera too. There is opportunity of talking to much older people, which can lead to exploitation or risk of inappropriate content via video chat.
Encouraging your children and teens to be SMART when they are online is a good start for websites like these. The internet is full of people they don’t know but being able to navigate how they communicate with them is key.
Monkey is an app similar to Omegle and Chatroulette. It’s an app that connects you to ‘like-minded people’ for 10 second video chats. The app connects you to others by using your Snapchat username.
This app uses a system very much like Omegle, and because the users don’t know who they’ll get pop up on their screen, it could be anyone doing anything. It uses artificial intelligence to help detect if inappropriate or explicit content is being shared, but this doesn’t always get picked up.
Users are required to state their age before they sign up to the app but there is no verification of this, so young people can lie about their age and get access to the app easily.
Video sharing social networking apps can be a force for good for teens, especially those that find socialising in person difficult. Monkey’s main aim is to encourage friendships by connecting people with similar interests, but with the anonymity element this can come with risks.
Originally named Musical.ly, TikTok is one of the most popular online live streaming video social networking sites from the last 12 months. If you haven’t seen your tween practising dances in the kitchen then you might not be too familiar with the app.
TikTok rose to popularity during the first coronavirus lockdown in 2020, with bored children, teens and even adults at home taking to the app to dance, sing and mime their way to being viral. You can go live on the app or film your own videos and upload them as posts.
There’s a special section on TikTok for children under 13 that includes additional safety and privacy features- so tweens can join in too without seeing some of the more mature content (things like swearing and references to sex etc).
As with many social media, there have been some controversial uploads on the app with inappropriate and disturbing content going viral before being taken down. The app has brought in strict banning and reporting of accounts to help keep their users safe.
Keeping up to date with the most popular apps can feel like a losing battle; but keeping your children safe online can be easier when you know what to look out for, and what settings are best. Having an open dialogue with young people and how they consume their content is a good way to keep a positive conversation going.
At Compass, we encourage every young person to explore their identity in a positive, healthy way. We offer our foster carers an extensive array of training for safeguarding young people both online and in person. Get in touch with us if you’d like to find out more about fostering.