Fact: The average tween gets a cell phone by the time she’s 12-years old. The means that half of kids younger than 12 have a phone, and most of the time it’s a smartphone with internet access
Fact: Most parents of tweens find it difficult or impossible to monitor everything that their kids are doing online, especially on their phones
If your tween has a phone, one of the things you are probably concerned with is cyberbullying. We wrote a couple of years ago about which networks and apps are the worst for cyberbullying, but times changes so we thought we’d take another look, this time from a tween parenting perspective.
Based on our research and what we see day in and day out, the worst sites for tween cyberbullying are:
Ask.fm – The question and answer site has taken strides this year to be a safer space for young users, but in our opinion it has a long way to go. The user demographic skews very young, and the fact that users can ask questions anonymously means that harsh words are thrown around on a regular basis. Users can opt out of accepting anonymous questions, but since that cuts down on interaction, most kids do not opt out from what we’ve seen.
Instagram – A wonderful app for posting or messaging pictures, Instagram is also a self-esteem wrecker for some kids. Many of the pics that kids post are selfies, and either to get a laugh or out of sheer meanness, other kids will often voice very harsh opinions. In some ways the kids are asking for it (not to blame the victim); participating in #HotOrNot or #RateMe contests is a great way to attract criticism.
Yik Yak – The anonymous, location-based app claims that it is intended for college kids and older users only, and has taken steps to have access blocked for at least some high schools, but practically speaking the blocks don’t work. On Yik Yak, you’ll find plenty of cyberbullying, as well as teacher bashing and general bad behavior. In addition, users can now post pictures, which ups the ante significantly.
Twitter – We see lots of under-13s on Twitter, but not many of them are very active. For those who are, parents should be aware that any post could be met with vocal dissent, which can and does easily devolve into cyberbullying. Twitter is a great platform for people with a lot to say, and bullies are some of the most vocal.
4chan and 8chan – These anonymous, no holds barred message boards are really no place for kids under 13. Reasonable discourse is almost nonexistent, and anyone posting is a potential target.
Reddit – While the content on Reddit is often high quality, the interactions can be just the opposite. Reddit’s content is divided into silos called subreddits based on users’ interests, and people frequenting those subreddits often have very strong opinions and aren’t shy about sharing them. Unless your tween is very thick skinned and knows how to skirt the adult content, we recommend staying off Reddit.
In general, we don’t recommend ignoring the age limits for social media. Young, undeveloped minds need some protection from harsh online elements, and waiting until they’re more mature is one way to achieve that. If younger kids are venturing onto social media, particularly the platforms above, parents need to be extra vigilant.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring child and teen internet activity.
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