You might have a handle on how your teenager uses Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Tumblr, but the social media universe is vast. As a parent, the best you can do is to keep educating yourself on the various sites that are drawing the attention of young users. With that in mind, let’s talk about what parents need to know about Reddit.
What Is Reddit?
This social site is about sharing and rating web content. Users can share whatever they’d like, from jokes to photos to news stories (70 percent of users get their news from Reddit), and other users leave comments and vote the post up or down. In this way, the community decides what’s important: the most popular stories become more visible and generate more discussion.
Posts are divided into categories known as “subreddits.” Whatever your interest, from lacrosse to car repair to scary stories, there’s a subreddit for that. Users also share personal stories and ask for advice.
Who Can Use Reddit?
Anyone can visit the site and browse through the stories, clicking the links they find interesting. However, in order to participate in the community by voting and commenting or making your own posts, you need to register. It’s free, and you don’t have to prove your age when you sign up. Kids and teens can and do use it, even though it’s generally adult-oriented.
Pew Research from 2013 indicated that among adults, there are far more men than women using the site; males age 18-29 are the most likely users.
The site is moderated by Reddit employees; if you post or engage in ways that are against policy, you might be asked to stop or your account could be suspended. If your content is inappropriate, it can be removed. The Reddit community self-regulates, too:
“The Reddit community will not tolerate users who try to spam the site with inappropriate or mediocre content. If you try to promote your own links aggressively without any other involvement in the Reddit community, you may get slapped by other heavy users who want you to play by the rules.”
As of 2015, there was a push to more closely monitor harassment-based subreddits, which included banning a couple of hateful forums, despite the company’s focus on allowing free expression.
NSFW – “Not Safe For Work”
This acronym stands for “not safe for work,” and you see a lot of it on Reddit. In fact, there are numerous subreddits devoted to it. This category is likely to include sexual material as well as violence and bad language. You will be asked your age before viewing the NSFW section, and you are only admitted if you say you are at least 18 years old, which you can do with one simple click.
Reddit includes NSFW guidelines in their content policy:
“Content that contains nudity, pornography, or profanity, which a reasonable viewer may not want to be seen accessing in a public or formal setting such as in a workplace should be tagged as NSFW. This tag can be applied to individual pieces of content or to entire communities.”
Should Your Children Use Reddit?
The truth is, for many kids, it’s probably not the most appealing social site out there for general use. (Even among adults, only four percent use the site, versus the 79 percent of online adults who use Facebook.) Instagram and Snapchat are far more popular among teenagers, and if you were to block Reddit on their mobile devices, they might not even notice.
Still, the longer a teen spends online, the more likely he or she will go looking for new sites to explore, and you never know when a site will become the next Big Thing. Furthermore, if a teenager is actively seeking out NSFW content, they probably know Reddit is a good starting point. Therefore, it’s a good idea to keep an eye on Reddit along with other social sites.
Common Sense Media gives it a star rating of three (out of five) in regard to the quality of the site and its potential for learning and recommends it for people over the age of 15. Common Sense mentions the good points of the site, including that groups have formed to raise money for causes, and that people can connect over shared interests. However, they also clearly state that Reddit is “…definitely not for kids,” adding:
“The drawback on Reddit is the same as it is for the entire Internet — there’s just no telling what people will put out there. Links, comments, and entire subreddits may expose kids to biased, offensive, or sexual content. Reddit’s best audience is a grown-up one.”
What Parents Can Do
You always have the option to block Reddit using quality parental controls. If your child is already using Reddit, make it part of the conversation you have with him or her about the internet. The same guidelines apply to Reddit as apply to other social sites:
- Teach your child to engage in constructive conversation and avoid name-calling or bullying.
- Explain what type of information should never be shared online.
- Depending upon the age and maturity level of your child, as well as your relationship with him or her, you might be able to explain why you don’t want your child to access certain types of material. For example, the sex depicted in pornographic images isn’t generally representative of real life; a young teen may not recognize that difference without your guidance.
- Let your kids know they can come to you for help if they encounter someone or something that makes them feel scared or uncomfortable.
Keep your children safer by making sure to limit the hours that your child can access the internet on his or her mobile device, and make sure to block sites, like Reddit, that you don’t deem appropriate by using trustworthy parental controls. It is never too late to talk to your children and teens about apps and social media sites that you feel are inappropriate for them to be using. With good communication and a little help from Netsanity, parents can keep their kids protected and balanced while getting the benefits of being online and using a mobile device!