Are these social media apps safe for my child?

July 13, 2016 Published by

phone display of social media appsSocial networking has become extremely popular with children and in fact research shows that more than half of children have used a social networking site by the age of ten.

It seems like the social media platforms that children use are constantly changing, so it can be hard to keep track. This often causes us as parents concerns about who our child is able to talk to, what content they might be seeing, and much more.

Knowing more about these apps and websites is the first step to helping you make an informed decision about whether to allow your child to use, or continue using, these social networks. The sources listed have not been endorsed by Fundamentally Children, but we will offer details on features including:

 

  • Moderation, reporting and blocking: these help restrict what content children can see or share, and who can contact them, helping to prevent cyberbullying, grooming and inappropriate content
  • Messaging: public messaging and forums potentially have a higher risk of your child seeing things they shouldn’t because they are open to anyone and provide a direct link between users. However, it also means that everyone can see what is said to your child, so they have less direct or hidden communication with individuals (e.g. they are less likely to be groomed on a public forum, compared to private messaging)
  • Contacts: some apps allow children to communicate with strangers, while others limit who they can make contact with. As anyone can create a profile on social networks, inappropriate individuals may be able to communicate with children
  • Content sharing: being able to share photos openly can be risky for children – in an open forum, anyone can see their photos. They are also able to share sensitive information, such as their school (e.g. a logo visible in a photo), which can lead to problems

NOTE: It is also worth being aware that social networks do not have checks to verify age, meaning children who are underage, as well as adults, can sign up easily.

 

The Apps

Popjam

PopJam is a photo sharing app which allows users to take photos, draw pictures, and post these on their profile. Users can follow one another as well as official profiles, such as Jacqueline Wilson or Dan and Phil.

  • The website says that the app is moderated 24 hours a day.
  • There is an icon for users to report inappropriate content, intended to restrict not only what your child can see, but also what they can post.
  • All profiles are public, and cannot be made private – so anyone can see what your child posts.
  • Anyone can follow your child’s profile, and comment on your child’s posts.
  • Users can communicate through the comments section of posts. 

Club Penguin

Club Penguin is a virtual world (available as an app or online) in which children create a penguin and chat, forum-style, with other players.

  • Parents can set one of two safe modes – ‘standard’, where messages are auto-filtered, and ‘ultimate’, where players can only communicate using a list of set phrases.
  • Children can easily report members through an icon on their profile, and also block specific players.
  • Sign up requires a parent’s email address, but children can easily use their own email address if registering themselves.

 

Oovoo

ooVoo lets you video call with up to 12 friends. Children can also send texts, pictures, and video messages.

  • This is not an app designed for children, so messages are not moderated.
  • Children can ask to add any user to their contacts by searching for their name on ooVoo, through their phone contacts, or via apps like Facebook. This means they can add friends, but also strangers.
  • Messaging is private, so only those within the group can see what has been sent.

 

WhatsApp

WhatsApp is a mobile messaging app that allows users to send messages, pictures, video and audio to one another. Users can create group chats to communicate with mwhatsapp-iconore than one person at once.

  • The service is free to use and doesn’t have adverts, so children won’t be redirected to inappropriate content
  • Children can only add users from their phone contacts, so will need another user’s phone number to communicate with them
  • Messaging is private, so only those within the group can see what has been sent

 

Our Verdict

The take home message is that unfortunately none of these services will completely protect your child. Social networking might be relatively new, but it’s just like  most areas of parenting – we would recommend that children should always be monitored and guided.

Cutting off access to social media altogether may cause your child to go behind your back, and will not help them learn how to use social networking safely. So, it’s crucial for your child to understand the risks of social networking,  and that they know and follow the do’s and don’ts and can talk to you if they have any concerns. You can find our top tips to help navigate children through the digital world that is social media right here

 

If there’s a social networking app or website you’d like to know more about, please contact us and we will add it to this guide. Common Sense Media also has a great guide with lots of information about many popular apps and websites.

 

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This post was written by Anna Taylor

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