Proof Positive That Even 4chan Is Not All Bad

4chan logoThe internet is a big place with a lot of options for tweens and teens. Of course we’re in the business of giving parents advice on how to keep kids’ internet activity safe and responsible, and we are quick to caution that there is a lot of cyberbullying, hateful and adult content on anonymous social network 4chan.

4chan’s rules regarding permissible content are pretty straightforward:

“Do not upload, post, discuss, request, or link to, anything that violates local or United States law.”

That’s it. Because it has so few restrictions and so little moderation, it attracts some of the worst internet actors. It also hosts some content that is very good, and quite positive. Consider the following.

red-eyes-black-dragon I don’t frequent 4chan, but I am a Reddit user, and the above post made it to the front page of Reddit today.

Reddit and 4chan are both not safe for kids, and teens should tread very carefully.

The above post, touching as it is, highlights the fact that parents need to be careful not to paint large parts of the internet with one brush. Yes, with fully anonymous platforms, cyberbullies and trolls can remain nameless, but there is a flip side. From a post by 4chan founder Chris Poole on the dangers of anonymity:

“What I’ve observed is the opposite—that anonymity facilitates honest discourse, creates a level playing field for ideas to be heard, and enables creativity like none other.”

Even with the bad, there are a lot of good things out there.


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Kuddle – This Instagram for Kids Isn’t Quite Perfect

Kuddlekuddle-sq-logo is a new app specifically designed for kids under 13 who are looking to get involved in the Instagram photo-sharing craze. It is designed with heavy parental controls to ensure child safety and responsibility, obviously fantastic goals. It’s no secret that Instagram has many underage users who get around the 13-year-old age limit. Young users of Instagram face potential predator risk, cyberbullying and lots of adult content, so we certainly aren’t going to argue with the age limit. An option for younger users is an interesting concept.

We downloaded the app and took it for a test drive, signing up as a 9-year-old boy. In a number of ways it is far safer for children than Instagram. Specifically;

  • The child is required to provide a parent’s emails address at signup, and the parent must agree before the account is activated
  • Real names only; no anonymous accounts of pseudonyms
  • Users receive and must answer an internet safety question before posting each photo
  • All photos are viewable by “friends” only
  • Parents are notified each time their child posts new content
  • Users can write captions and draw pictures on photos, but viewers of photos cannot commentkuddle-parental-control
  • Users cannot tag other users in pictures
  • All “Likes” are anonymous
  • Once a “friend” is accepted, she can not be unfriended by the user (but a parent can do it)
  • No Geolocation settings are used
  • Human monitors actively scan for and delete inappropriate content

We applaud their efforts, as it is much more kid-friendly than Instagram, but there are a couple of shortcomings in our view.

  • The email address listed as that of a parent could be anyone. In my case, I used 2 of my own email addresses to sign up. A child with two email addresses or with a willing accomplice can easily sign up without parental consent.
  • We do not like the idea of using the child’s real name, for obvious safety reasons.

Kuddle claims to be compliant with COPPA, the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, which governs how companies use under-13 kids’ personal information, but we don’t think they are. Kuddle is asking the child for name, gender, email and birthdate before the parent accepts the terms. That in itself looks like a violation. The FTC requires verifiable parental consent before collecting any information from a child. (For comparison, see the FTC complaint and judgment against kids’ site

Overall, the app needs some work to be as family friendly as the well-intentioned creators desire, and to be COPPA-compliant as far as we can tell.

Broadly speaking, though, we are not sure whether it’s a great idea overall. For some kids, Kuddle is likely to act as a gateway drug to adult social media, perhaps at too young an age. As a parent, I’m not sure of the wisdom of showing an under-10 child how to share photos at all, even if it is on a safe platform.

When it comes to photo sharing, Kuddle looks like a pretty good option for youngsters “who were going to do it anyway”. For parents of the average child under 13, a better message to be sending might be, “You’re too young to be sharing photos.”


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The KIK App is Definitely Not For Kids

Kik-home-screenIf your teens or tweens are actively messaging on their phones, you’ve probably noticed that they’re using a messaging app rather than the phone’s standard SMS utility. Messaging apps are cool, free and they offer features that many users find appealing.

We did a quick review of the KIK messaging app last year, which now has over 150 million users, and it didn’t seem much different from the other messaging apps out there like WhatsApp and Line with one exception – anecdotally it seems that that more teens are using KIK for sexting and seeking out causal partners than is the case for other messaging apps, at least here in the U.S.

Our opinion has been that if your teen decides to try out sexting, it’s going to happen regardless of which apps are on his phone. The apps themselves are not the problem. We may have to change our tune on this one.

I do have KIK on my phone but I don’t use it – it’s still there from when I’ve researched it in the past. I didn’t realize that I had push notifications turned on, and was very surprised to receive the following message yesterday:

kik-flirt“Hello from the KIK Dating Team. We’ve noticed you may be interested in our online dating partner who have thousands of beautiful women all ready to chat and flirt using KIK Messenger! We hope you enjoy our gift and enjoy using our network to swap pics and flirty messages!

Love KIK Team.”

As I mentioned above, I don’t use the app (I sent and received 1 message last year during testing) and they don’t know anything about me, including whether I’m interested in flirting. They don’t know my age either, which means that the above message could have as easily been sent to a curious 12-year-old.

It’s one thing for a teen to use KIK to message an existing partner; it’s totally different if the platform suggests that he may want to try flirting with strangers. We recommend that parents keep KIK off their kids’ phones until they are old enough to make very good decisions.

Parents can find information on deactivating a child’s KIK account here.

Edit: A colleague and I did some research and it looks like this message is spam, not sent by KIK themselves. We are reaching out to the company for a comment.

Edit 2: www dot kikdating dot net has been taken down. The above was definitely third party spam. I did reach out to the company and still haven’t heard from them.


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Twitter Timeline Changes Could Be a Negative for Parents

Social media networks are no strangers to playing around with their features, privacy settings and user experience. They are in the business of selling advertising, and if they can increase their number of users or time spent by existing users, they’re moving in a good direction.

twitter-sq-mediumNew changes made by Twitter this week alter the way the platform works, in a way that could be a negative for young users and their parents.

Until now, a user’s timeline (what she sees when she open up Twitter) is made up of the most recent posts and retweets from the people that she follows. Other than the occasional ad (a “promoted Tweet”), that’s it. Now Twitter is taking the liberty of adding other popular content. From Twitter’s support section:

“Additionally, when we identify a Tweet, an account to follow, or other content that’s popular or relevant, we may add it to your timeline. This means you will sometimes see Tweets from accounts you don’t follow. We select each Tweet using a variety of signals, including how popular it is and how people in your network are interacting with it. Our goal is to make your home timeline even more relevant and interesting.”

Here is where it could get dicey for parents. Twitter is well known for having very few content restrictions. Nudity, pornography, drug references and profanity are all permitted, and common. If your daughter has carefully curated her list of whom she follows, the good news is that she won’t see any of that.

Now that might change. Let’s say that someone tweets a leaked nude picture of one of the guys from One Direction. Twitter’s algorithm might decide that it is very relevant to her. Maybe Ed Sheeran will come out in support of hard drugs. Again, Twitter decides. Sure, your child could go seek that information out, but Twitter may serve it up to her on a silver platter.

If you’re a parent who has helped your teen keep it clean online, this has the potential of throwing you a few curveballs. We’d like to assume that Twitter’s algorithm will screen out inappropriate “relevant” content, but it might not. As a parent I would rather not leave it to Twitter to decide what my teen sees.

Bad move, Twitter.


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