What is Pinterest? — What parents need to know

Pinterest is an online image-sharing platform

While Pinterest isn’t the top app among young people, some teenagers do still engage with it. A 2022 Ofcom report* found that 53% of people believe the platform must take further online safety measures to keep Pinterest safe.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is a image-sharing social media platform that launched in 2010. With users worldwide, even if someone doesn’t use Pinterest, they likely know about it.

Users can browse thousands of posts called Pins to get ideas for recipes, decor, teaching and more. Some also use it in a similar way to social networks like Instagram where they simply scroll through content.

Anyone with a Pinterest account is also able to create a Pin with their own content to share with others.

How does it work?

Users can use Pinterest on a web browser or through the Pinterest app. When you sign up for either, you must choose topics that interest you.

Once you do this, your home feed features these topics. For example, if you set your interests in cooking and DIY, Pins in your feed will show related content. As you engage with more content, this feed changes to reflect your interests. You can change these on your Pinterest profile.

What is a Pinterest board?

A Pinterest board is like a folder on a computer. When you want to save something you see on Pinterest, you ‘pin’ it to the board (save it to the folder). The idea comes from bulletin boards that you might pin photos and documents to.

Other people on Pinterest can view saved Pins and so can the creator who originally shared the pin. However, secret boards don’t notify creators when one of their Pins is saved. Users can set any of their Pinterest boards as secret.

For example, you might have a recipes board where you pin any food-related content for later. Or maybe a fashion board where you pin styles that you like. Users can create a board from their profiles or when they pin new content.

How Pinterest algorithms work

Pinterest algorithms work similarly to others social media platforms. The more a user interacts with certain Pins, the more related Pins they will see.

Like other social media algorithms, this could create a sort of ‘echo chamber’ where the content starts to shape your beliefs. Some Pins may spread misinformation. Interacting with it results in more of the same, which leads to close-minded thinking or inaccurate ideas about the world.

An example of this is Molly Russell, a 14-year-old girl who committed suicide in 2017. She searched for content related to self-harm and suicide. As such, the algorithm continued to show her similar content, which impacted her mental health.

Privacy and security settings

Pinterest has a variety of settings for users to manage their online safety. Their policies also warn against harmful content that includes self-harm, misinformation, adult content and exploitation, hate and more. They say they may “remove, limit or block the distribution of such content and accounts”.

However, some content still slips by. As such, the platform depends on other users reporting content that goes against Pinterest’s Terms of Service.

Online safety issues document

Learn about issues that may harm your child’s online safety.

Learn about online safety issues across the web.


What is Pinterest’s age limit?

Like many other social media networks, users in the UK must be at least 13 years old to use Pinterest. Surveys show that most children using the platform are 15-17 years old and make up a small portion of all users. However, those who use it should know that they might come across inappropriate content for their age.

Is Pinterest safe for young people?

The platform has content guidelines, privacy settings and report functions like most social media platforms applicable to all Pinterest users. However, there are some things to look out for to keep your teen safe online.

Inappropriate content

While Pinterest’s content guidelines clearly prohibit inappropriate content, reports show it sometimes slips through the filters. However, searching some terms don’t result in anything but a message. For example, searching content related to suicide brings up the following message in the UK:

Pinterest shares helpful messages when searching inappropriate content

Another example of such messages comes when trying to search for pornographic content:

Pinterest does not allow pornographic content on the platform

In their Terms of Service, Pinterest says that nudity is allowed in some forms (e.g. science and art) but not with pornographic suggestion.

It’s important that your child knows that online filters aren’t always effective. However, they should report anything inappropriate they come across.

How to safely use Pinterest

  • Set up content preferences: When you first join, the platform asks you to choose multiple interests. Ensure these interests are positive for your child’s mental wellbeing. Remember that this changes as you use the platform. However, you can update and remove topics in your settings while also limiting how your data influences what you see.
  • Use social permissions settings: Limit who can interact with your child and how. You can also set up manual filters to reduce triggering comments on Pins your teen shares
  • Customise data settings: You can hide your account from Google searches, customise cookie settings and manage or delete your account data.
  • Manage notifications: To help promote balanced screen time on Pinterest, turn off or limit notifications
  • Talk about your child’s interests: Discuss what they see on Pinterest and how they can get support if they need it.
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