A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to Social Media Platforms

social media platforms

Disclaimer: Parents should note that while age restrictions for each app vary, most are easy for children to get past by registering as older than they are.  

GDPR regulations require an Age of Digital Consent – the minimum age a user must be before a social media or internet company can collect, process and store their data. 

In Ireland, the Age of Digital Consent is sixteen. Most of these apps will require parental permission before a child can use them. 

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to Twitch

 

What is Twitch? 

Twitch is a video platform that allows gamers or streamers to share their gameplay, commentate on what they’re doing and share their gameplay with anyone who wants to watch. Essentially the users are watching someone play a game!  

Users can also set up a stream themselves if they have the correct equipment like a webcam and microphone. As of December 2020, there are about 9.4 million active streamers on the platform.  

 

How do you use it? 

Twitch has a website as well as a mobile and gaming console app. Users are brought to the homepage where they can select a stream they would like to watch. The streams on the homepage tend to be the most popular games or streamers.  

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can people interact with gamers? 

Each stream has a chatroom where users who are all watching the same stream can chat with each other. The moderation of these chat rooms is at the discretion of the streamer so some chat rooms are more heavily moderated than others. 

Users can also talk to each other directly through the “Whisper” feature. Users can block messages from strangers or block private messages altogether through privacy settings.  

 

How old do you have to be to use Twitch? 

The minimum age requirement to use Twitch is 13. Users between the ages of 13 and 18 can only use the platform under the supervision of a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be bound by their Terms of Service.  

 

Is it risky? 

As it’s a live stream, you do not have control over what a streamer is saying or the content that they’re showing.  As with most social media platforms, Twitch has community guidelines in place to prevent hate speech, sexual content and harassment but inappropriate language and images are common on Twitch streams.  

It’s important to bear in mind that most of the time, children just want to watch entertaining content but if you’re concerned about what your child is watching on Twitch, have a chat with them. 

Find out what they like about Twitch and research their favourite games so you can understand what content they might be watching.

Chat to them about the importance of privacy online and let them know that they can come to you if they see something that upsets them online.  

 

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to Instagram 

 

What is Instagram? 

Instagram is the app that turned everybody into an amateur photographer! It is a social media app that allows you to take pictures and videos and share them with friends, family and the internet at large. 

 

How do you use it? 

You can download the app from Apple or Google Stores to a mobile or tablet, sign up for an account and set a username and password.

Accounts can be set as public or private. If it’s private, you must approve a follower request from those wishing to follow you. 

From there, you can start taking pictures and posting them to your feed. Your feed will contain your posts as well as the posts of people you’ve chosen to follow. Think friends, family, celebrities, public figures and even animals!

You can also post photos and videos to Instagram Stories. These posts exist for 24 hours before disappearing, similar to Snapchat. 

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can users interact with each other? 

There is a private messaging function within Instagram where users can chat with each other. Users can also chat via features such as Q+A stickers where someone asks a question and someone else can respond.  If your profile is set to private, people can request to message you directly. You control whether or not you accept. A group chat function is also available. 

 

How old do you have to be to use it? 

You must be 13 years old to set up an Instagram account. 

 

Is it risky? 

There are risks and benefits to every social media platform. With Instagram, there is the potential for people to only show the aspects of life that they want people to see.

This can lead to unhealthy comparisons and unrealistic expectations, especially regarding influencers.

Chat to your child about influencer marketing, reminding them that is like any other advertising and should be taken with a pinch of salt.   

 

social media platforms

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to Snapchat 

 

What is Snapchat? 

Similar to Instagram, Snapchat is a mobile messaging application used to share photos, videos, text, and drawings. The appeal of Snapchat is the messages disappear after 10 seconds and can only be viewed once.  

 

How do you use it? 

You can download the app from Apple or Google Stores to a mobile or tablet, sign up for an account and set a username and password. 

From there, you can start taking pictures and sending them to your chosen contacts.  Contacts are added via their chosen usernames or phone number. You can also add people who are nearby.  

Alternatively, you can just post to your own Snapchat Story where your friends can see them. These posts exist for 24 hours before disappearing and can be viewed more than once.  

Your feed will contain the posts of people you’ve chosen to follow. Think friends, family, celebrities, and public figures.  

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can users interact with each other? 

There is a private messaging function within Snapchat where users can chat with each other. A group chat function is also available. 

 

How old do you have to be to use it? 

You must be 13 years old to set up a Snapchat account. 

 

Is it risky? 

Most of the time Snapchat is fun but the disappearing nature of the platform has led to criticism that people can use it for “sexting” or sending suggestive or nude photos.

As photos can be “screenshotted”, it means that the person receiving the photos can save them and send them to other people.

New legislation has recently come into force which makes this offence, often referred to as “revenge porn” illegal and you can read more about it here

 

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to TikTok 

 

What is TikTok? 

TikTok has a reputation for being the most creative social media platform around. Users can create, watch and share short-form videos on almost any topic imaginable.

It has a range of filters and effects that enhance the creativity of videos as well as access to a huge range of songs and noise effects. 

 

How do you use it? 

You can download the app from Apple or Google Stores to a mobile or tablet, sign up for an account and set a username and password. 

Your homepage will contain two feeds; 

The ‘Following’ feed will contain the posts of people you’ve chosen to follow. Think friends, family, celebrities, and public figures.  

The ‘For You’ feed contains posts that the algorithm thinks you’ll enjoy based on previous interactions and your following feed. Users can react to a video by liking or sharing it. 

Users swipe down to move to the next video with an infinite feed available.  

Users can also create videos themselves through the central create button. 

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can users interact with each other? 

There is a messaging feature where users can chat with each other. 

 

How old do you have to be to use it? 

You must be 13 years old to set up a TikTok account. 

 

Is it risky? 

Like most social media platforms, there is a comment feature that offers the potential for cyberbullying. As with most social media platforms, TikTok has community guidelines in place to prevent hate speech, sexual content and harassment. 

 

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to YouTube 

 

What is YouTube? 

YouTube is a video sharing service where users can watch, comment and like videos. Users can also create videos and upload them to the website.  

 

How do you use it? 

YouTube has a website as well as an app that you can find on mobile, gaming consoles and smart TVs. Users are brought to the homepage where they can select a video they would like to watch. The videos on the homepage tend to be the most popular videos on that particular day or tailored recommendations based on a user’s past viewing history. 

There is a search bar where you can search for videos on any topic and you can sign up for a YouTube account if you want to follow specific creators or YouTubers. It should be noted that you do not need an account to view videos on YouTube.  

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can users interact with each other? 

There is a comment section under most videos. YouTubers can turn off comment sections under their videos if they want.  

 

How old do you have to be to use it? 

You can set up a YouTube account with parental consent from the age of 13. 

 

Is it risky? 

Like most social media platforms, there is a comment feature that offers the potential for cyberbullying. As with most social media platforms, YouTube has community guidelines in place to prevent hate speech, sexual content and harassment. 

In recent times, the YouTube algorithm has been criticised for recommending inappropriate videos to users where the content could be classed as conspiratorial or misinformed. With that in mind, it’s important to talk to your child about critical thinking, fake news and misinformation. You can find more information on that here

 

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to YouTube Kids 

 

What is YouTube Kids? 

YouTube Kids is designed for children to make it easier for them to find videos that they’re interested in but that are also age-appropriate for them.

It’s aimed at children between the ages of 3 and 12 and allows parents to have greater control over the content that their children are watching. 

 

How do you use it? 

It’s available as a separate website from YouTube as well as an app that is available to download on mobile and most smart TVs.  

It works the same way as the regular YouTube app except that you can create profiles for each child and control what videos and channels they have access to. They are three different age groups (0-4, 5-7, 8-12) that will influence the videos and content that are available to each child.  

You can also control if your child can search for videos or not as well as setting a screen time limit. 

 

How much does it cost? 

Free. 

 

Can users interact with each other? 

Unlike YouTube, there is no comment section.  

 

How old do you have to be to use it? 

Suitable for all ages. 

 

Is it risky? 

Unlike most social media platforms, there is no comment feature so the potential for cyberbullying is limited.

As with most social media platforms, YouTube has community guidelines in place to prevent hate speech, sexual content and harassment.  

If an inappropriate video makes it past the content guidelines, it can be flagged for a review by YouTube to determine if it’s suitable or not for that particular age group. 

 

social media platforms

A Parent’s/Carer’s Guide to Fortnite 

What is Fortnite? 

Fortnite is an online game with four distinct game modes that allow gamers to either compete to be the last person standing or just hang out with friends.

As of May 2020, it has an estimated 350 million registered accounts. It is one of the most-watched games on the video-streaming platform Twitch. 

 

How do you play? 

As mentioned there are four game modes; 

 

Battle Royale – 100 players are dropped onto an island and must fight to be the last person standing using a variety of weapons, vehicles and other items available around the island. Each match lasts about 20 minutes. 

 

Party Royale – This mode is a more relaxed version, available within Battle Royale. Players can hang out and try obstacle courses or even attend online concerts! 

 

Fortnite Creative – Here players can create their own island, games and rules. You can invite friends to your island and play games that other players have created. 

 

Fortnite Save the World – Here players team up to defend the world against Husks using a variety of weapons, vehicles and other items.   

 

Currently, Fortnite Battle Royale and the included Party Royale and Creative and are available to download on PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, PC, and the Epic Games App. Save the World mode is currently available on PlayStation, Xbox, and PC.  

 

How much does it cost? 

Free but with in-app purchases. 

 

Can gamers interact with each other? 

There is live, unmoderated chat possible between gamers in the console and PC versions of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Both voice chat and on-screen text chat are options. These can be disabled if required.  

 

How old do you have to be to play Fortnite? 

The age recommendation is 13+ but you are not asked for your age when you create an account to play. 

 

Is it risky? 

As with any online game, there are some risks. The chat function available on PC and console is unmoderated so you cannot control what your child hears. While there is some violence in Fortnite, this is more cartoonish with no blood as anyone who dies simply vanishes. 

As with all games, screen time management is vital so set time limits. As mentioned above, there are premium features available so ensure that your credit or debit card is not connected to the account unless you are happy for your child to purchase something.  

 

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