Online Guide for Parents on Apps and Social Media during COVID-19 Lockdown (2) – Asian Mums Network & Cyber Safe Zone

Apps guide and age restrictions – a guide for parents

What age can my child start social networking?

Popular apps may include TikTok, Snapchat, Instagram and many more. To message young people may be communicating via a variety of methods including WhatsApp, Viber, Telegram, WeChat, Line.

The majority of apps that children use can be accessed through smartphones and tablets. During this time, it’s important to recognise that social networking apps have age limits. Some social network apps might not be suitable for children because it would risk them interacting with adults unsupervised.

  • Instant messaging can allow private conversations between individuals. Your child may not know who that person is.
  • Location Features are available on most social network apps which may alert a predator or groomer as to the whereabouts of your child.
  • Even if your child is careful about sharing personal information others in their network can easily screenshot and share to anyone without your child’s permission. Once it is shared, it is very difficult to retrieve that information.
  • Chat rooms for young people can be targeted by adults including strangers and groomers. many chat rooms are unmoderated.
  • Inappropriate language including online sexual grooming can also take place through video chat programs.

Roblox, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, YouTube are currently popular social media platforms amongst young people.

If your child is using any social media, make sure you and your child are aware of these key features.

  • How to report abuse
  • How to block users
  • How to set up parental controls
  • Where to go for further support

Checklists are available to download for free from our SWGfL page.

What you need to know about Roblox – Tips to stay safe

Roblox is a popular gaming site and platform. Multiple players can interact and play together online. There is a collection of games aimed at 8-18-year olds, where primary age children can interact with young adults, even older individuals. Roblox is currently available on PC, phone, tablet and Xbox One.

Games include delivering pizzas, to roaming a kingdom as a medieval knight or starring in a fashion show.  You can also create your games and share these with others. This variety is one of the reasons that Roblox is so popular with young people. Because it is user-generated, there can be extremely inappropriate content on this platform, including sexual and violent content. Users or game creators can earn in-game currency via in-game adverts which can be converted into real money.

Check safety features available on the service.

  1. It allows young people to communicate with others of any age via chat facilities and friend requests which would enable communication outside the parameters of the game
  2. The content on Roblox is not always suitable for children
  3. Children can run up costs on Roblox

What you need to know about TikTok – Tips to stay safe

TikTok allows you to share 60 second short videos with friends, family or the entire world. It is most popular with under 16s. It has also now become the most downloaded app of 2019.

Videos featuring comedy sketches or lip-syncs featuring the latest songs or voices over extracts from films. The minimum age for this app is13, according to TikTok’s terms and conditions. Many primary aged children use TikTok and bypass the age restriction. TikTok asks for your date of birth when you sign up so if your child is using TikTok and they are under 13 years old it means they have added an incorrect date of birth.

If you download the app, you can instantly see the videos that others have posted but you can’t share or post anything until you have set up your own account. You can add people to your network, and only friends or followers can message you. To keep a user from sending you a private message, unfollow or remove them from your followers. The feed highlights what is going on in your community and shows tailored recommendations.

Risks with TikTok

  • Cyberbullying
  • Set the account to private or anyone can access the content.
  • Enable the Digital Wellbeing settings on the TikTok app.
  • Know the community guidelines and be Share Aware
  • Be aware of explicit songs and content on the app.

What you need to know about Snapchat – Tips to stay safe

Snapchat is a messaging app that is popular with teenagers and even children which allows sharing user-generated photos, texts and videos, i.e. ‘snaps.

Once a ‘snap’ is sent to someone else, it can last on the screen of the receiver for a matter of seconds before disappearing.

There is also a feature called ‘Snapstory’ where you can put your ‘snaps’ on your ‘story’ for more than one person to see for 24 hours. 

How to keep safe on Snapchat

  • There is a blocking feature, so the blocked person can’t see your Snapstory or send snaps.
  • Privacy settings mean only friends can view your snaps.
  • If an unknown person sends you a snap, you will get a notification.
  • If you are harassed, bullied or at risk of grooming or exploitation, you can report on this link.
  • Location in Snapchat is shown in Snap Maps, be aware of the three options for who can see your location, i.e. only me, select friends and my friends 

What you need to know about Instagram  – Tips to stay safe

Instagram is a free photo and video sharing app where you can upload photos or videos and share them with followers or with a select group of friends who can also view, comment and like posts shared by their friends on Instagram.

You must be 13 or over but many younger children are signing up for Instagram and can be encouraged by product campaigns to keep their profiles public and discourage privacy settings.

Take these steps to ensure your child’s profile is safe as possible, starting by immediately setting to private. There are three options when posting content: public, private or direct.

You can tag a location when posting a photo or video, but these carry risks if the post is public.

To keep safe, consider the following:

  • Unfollow, a user, if you don’t like the content or it’s unsuitable.
  • Block a user and report if their content as inappropriate.
  • Consider the keyword moderation tool to restrict words you consider offensive or inappropriate.
  • Users with a private account can remove any followers you don’t know.

What you need to know about YouTube – Tips to stay safe

Unlike adults, YouTube is the preferred viewing platform for young people and even children.  The following growing trend of influencers and vloggers both male and female can have a real impression on the attitudes and behaviours of young people.  According to a recent study, 85 per cent of teenagers (ages 13–17) say they use YouTube, followed by Instagram (72 per cent) and Snapchat (69 per cent).

What you need to know about WhatsApp (and other platforms) – Tips to stay safe

WhatsApp is one of many free mobile messaging apps which allows users to send and receive messages, images and videos to their existing phone contacts, using an internet connection. The age restriction is 16 but many children under this age can partake in group chats.  WhatsApp users can create groups and send messages to many of their friends at the same time. Conversations are often unmoderated so your child could be exposed to inappropriate, explicit and even intolerant ideologies. Other messengers may include the following:


Keeping safe on WhatsApp

  • Privacy settings are to control who can find your profile picture and your status, or when you were last online, which can be adjusted to control who can see your profile picture.
  • Blocking: You can block specific contacts from interacting with you on WhatsApp. If you block someone, they can no longer send you a message.
  • Reporting: You can report content to WhatsApp, although they state it is better to go to the police if you believe your child’s safety, is at risk.
  • Take screenshots of the offending text/picture/video to provide as much information as possible.
  • Spam: Should you receive a message from an unknown number, you will be immediately asked if you know this contact or if you would like to report it as spam.  
  • Be aware of other unmoderated messenger apps, where the chats may contain explicit and unsuitable content for young people or children.
  • Extremists and groomers also use unmoderated encrypted platforms and messenger chats to target children or vulnerable young people.

All you need to know about social media app and risks

TikTok at a glance
Roblox at a glance

Social media guides

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About the author: AMN