What is Reddit? — What parents need to know

What is Reddit and is it safe for teens to use?

The social news website requires users to be 13 or older but is Reddit safe? Learn what teens can find on Reddit and how you can help them stay safe from the site’s risks.

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What is Reddit?

Reddit is a social news site where users create and share content. Some of this content is only suitable for those 18+ and is marked as NSFW (not safe for work). For some parents, this makes them wonder whether Reddit is safe for use by teens.

The site has communities called subreddits for different interests and any user can create a subreddit.

Teens can often find communities to discuss their favourite video games or hobby. They can also find more general communities like r/mademesmile where users share content to spread happiness. There is even a subreddit specifically called r/teenagers for those 13-19 years of age to discuss things relevant to them.

How it works

Users can post images or text posts in line with Reddit’s content guidelines and each subreddit’s individual rules. They can also comment on others’ posts. Whenever someone posts content or comments on something, they earn points called karma. People can anonymously upvote and downvote content and comments to give or take away karma.

If a person really likes a post or comment, they can award the OP (original poster) for their content. These awards cost real currency to purchase and some give the recipient special privileges. Awards that exist across Reddit include silver, gold and platinum.

There are also community awards that can be set by subreddit moderators. Some examples are ‘wholesome’, ‘hugz’ and ‘helpful’ awards but can vary between communities.

As users browse, they can choose to go to specific communities or browse their front page. Their front page features posts from all the communities they follow. They can also browse r/all, which draws popular posts from subreddits all over Reddit.

What is the age rating?

For users in the UK, there is an age minimum of 13. Users under this age cannot use the site or app.

Reddit: The Official App is available for download in app stores. It has a parental guidance rating in the Google Play store and an age rating of 17+ in the Apple store.

What are the parental controls for Reddit?

Whether using the website or downloading the app, Reddit has few privacy and security settings. They include:

  • collapsing ‘disruptive’ comments that contain rude or disrespectful content while you browse
  • appearing invisible online
  • keeping your account out of Google search results
  • turning off personalised content and information collection
  • implementing two-factor authentication for additional security logging in
  • turning off NSFW content
  • limiting who can follow your account
  • whether your posted content shows up in r/all (Reddit’s general feed).

Neither the app nor the website offer parental controls.

Controversy around the platform

Many wonder if Reddit is safe because of some of its controversies. The site has been at the centre of several led by different subreddit communities over the years.

Hate groups

Some of the biggest controversies are those associated with subreddits that promote hate, specifically fat-shaming and misogyny. There have also been hate groups created that promote homophobia and racism. However, Reddit’s content policy states: “Communities and users that incite violence or that promote hate based on identity or vulnerability will be banned.” Many subreddits have been removed from Reddit by the admin team for breaking this rule.

Still, some groups like the above exist. They tend to be less popular and go unnoticed. When they become popular, users are more likely to report them, resulting in their closure. It’s important to monitor which communities your teen is interacting with.

Doxxing

In 2013, the site came under criticism following the Boston Marathon bombing. Users found who they believed was guilty, wrongly accusing a number of people. Doxxing (publicly sharing someone’s personal information), reportedly led to the suicide of one of the accused.

Reddit now has rules against sharing personally identifiable information of other people across the site. Many subreddits also repeat this in their subreddit rules. Users who break this rule get banned from the site.

What are the benefits?

Reddit offers a wide range of communities for all interests. These communities can offer a space for teens to form online friendships with like-minded people.

It is also a space to offer support. For example, young people who are a part of the LGBTQ+ community may find advice in a subreddit like r/LGBTeens. Someone who struggles with ADHD could find support in r/ADHD. There are also communities for asking advice on a variety of topics or just having a simple conversation.

The users in these subreddits tend to be very supportive of those in their community. Because each subreddit has rules users need to abide by as well, moderators will ban or suspend anyone who tries to put others down. As a result, many of these support communities serve as safe spaces for those most vulnerable.

What to watch out for

Because there are so many communities on Reddit, it’s easy for young people to find exactly what they want. However, this also means there are communities that support ideals that could shape your child’s way of thinking in a negative or extreme way.

There is also a section of Reddit that has pornographic content. Unlike 4chan, these communities are not listed on the front page and users must search for them.

When coming across NSFW content, users must confirm they are over 18. An additional pop-up may also ask them to use the app to view the content. Beyond that, there are no age checks.

Additionally, subreddits that show up on r/all or in a user’s regular feed may allow NSFW content. This won’t necessarily be pornographic in nature but could contain content inappropriate for teens. Users can turn off the ability to see these posts in settings.

How to keep teens safe on Reddit

  • Have regular conversations about the communities they’re visiting: ask your child about things that happen and what kind of content they see in their communities. If they are comfortable to speak with you about the positive things, they might be more likely to come to you with concerns.
  • Implement privacy and security settings where possible: although Reddit has minimal privacy and security settings, there are some that are useful. Browsers, app stores and broadband also have parental controls you can set to encourage safety.
  • Explore Reddit on your own: taking time to understand how your teen might use the site can better inform your conversations. And this can also help you decide whether Reddit is safe and right for your child.