Sometimes it feels like there are more social media sites than grains of sand on the beach. We’ve all heard about TikTok, Reddit, and Instagram—but what about Pinterest?
Pinterest is one of the most popular social media sites. In fact, a recent analysis reports that Pinterest is among the top 50 most visited websites in the world. If you parent creative kids, you’ve probably heard about it—and if you’re hip with the times, you might even have a Pinterest account yourself.
But what exactly is Pinterest about? What age is Pinterest appropriate for? And in an age where online safety is vital, is Pinterest safe for kids?
Let’s find out!
What Is Pinterest?
Before we talk about what age Pinterest is appropriate for, let’s take a look at the website itself.
Pinterest is a social media site centered around image sharing, saving, and discovering. Unlike other social media sites, however, users don’t post personal content on Pinterest. Instead, they rifle through stacks of digital photos, called “pins,” which they can then save and repost on virtual corkboards called—you guessed it—“boards.” If Reddit is the front page of the Internet, then Pinterest is the Internet’s bulletin board.
Because it’s so visual, Pinterest is especially popular with creative types who use the site to discover new interests and find visual inspiration for projects like pottery and painting. Other users scroll through Pinterest to find style inspiration, discover new recipes, and plan events like weddings and parties. I even know a few teachers who use Pinterest to help with lesson planning.
The site launched in 2009 and quickly became one of the most popular social media services on the Internet. In fact, Pinterest claims that the site receives over 445 million visitors every month. That’s more people than the combined populations of the US and Canada!
How Does Pinterest Work?
So, how does Pinterest work?
Upon signing up for Pinterest, users may select a few topics that interest them. The site then uses these selections to create a personalized feed of pictures and images, or pins, related to these topics. If your child said they like cooking, for example, then their Pinterest feed would likely feature pins spotlighting delicious recipes.
Much like TikTok’s “For You Page,” each user’s Pinterest feed uses an advanced algorithm to change and shift depending on what kind of posts they interact with.
Posts aren’t made directly on Pinterest, however. Instead, every pin is brought to Pinterest via an external link. When users click on pins, they navigate to the image’s source website. This is where many users get their recipe guides and craft instructions from. While these links tend to be safe, unknown links are never 100% trustworthy. After all, clicking on the wrong link could prompt drive-by downloads that introduce unwanted viruses or expose your child to adult content.
What’s Social about Pinterest?
So if Pinterest is social media, where does the social part come into play?
Well, users can interact with others on Pinterest in a few different ways: by commenting, sending posts to friends via private message, or by reposting pins onto a personal Pinterest board. These boards typically have a category or specific creative endeavor in mind. For example, a stay-at-home dad with a love for pottery might have a board dedicated to ceramics, while a teenager embarking on a style journey could have a board about clothes.
Pinterest boards don’t have to be about solo projects, though. Two or more users can create boards together and add as many posts as they want.
It’s important to note that new profiles and boards on Pinterest are automatically set to public. If your child is surfing and reposting things on Pinterest, make sure that they make their boards secret (Pinterest’s lingo for private), otherwise the whole world can see what they’re repinning!
Is Pinterest Safe for Kids?
So is Pinterest safe for 11-year-olds? Is Pinterest safe for 12-year-olds? What age is Pinterest appropriate for?
Here’s our verdict: While Pinterest’s content is usually pretty tame, the ease with which it allows kids to click on external links, the site’s lack of parental controls, and the potential for inappropriate content to slip through the cracks makes Pinterest an unsafe website for kids to explore.
Whether they’re 8, 10, or 12, Pinterest isn’t safe for kids. In fact, kids under 13 can’t even create an account as per Pinterest’s guidelines!
Why Is Pinterest Unsafe for Kids?
There are a few reasons why Pinterest isn’t the safest corner of the Internet for kids. Let’s take a look at them:
- Pinterest could expose kids to inappropriate content. Pinterest’s community guidelines ban explicit content like pornography, but the site’s filter isn’t always 100% effective. As such, mature imagery could make its way onto your child’s Pinterest feed.
- Pinterest links lead kids to external websites—and they could be sketchy. As mentioned earlier, every post on Pinterest is attached to an external link. Even if your child doesn’t have an Internet browser on their phone, links can be opened within the Pinterest app and take kids to unsafe or inappropriate websites.
- Direct messaging could connect kids with strangers. While Pinterest isn’t like traditional social media platforms, the commenting and direct messaging systems definitely are. Anyone can message your child on Pinterest. Thankfully, you can change who can message your child in the settings.
- Pinterest has no parental controls. Many social media sites have a parental control section that helps make the site suitable for younger audiences; Pinterest is an exception.
My Teen Has Pinterest. How Can I Keep Them Safe?
Although we don’t recommend any social media for kids, older teens with good tech safety skills may be able to handle the responsibility of social media. For these technologically mature teens, Pinterest can be a valuable resource that gets their creative gears turning.
If your teen is an active Pinner, take a look at these simple steps you can take to help them stay safe and secure as they explore:
- Turn on important privacy settings. Pinterest doesn’t have a ton of privacy settings, but the ones that are present are pretty important. For example, you can turn on a setting that removes your child’s profile from showing up on search engines. Take a look at Pinterest’s privacy settings and select the ones that will keep your child safest.
- Utilize two-factor authentication. As with many sites, Pinterest features a two-factor authentication setting that requires users to verify their identity before logging into their profile. This works as an added layer of protection against bots and hackers. While two-factor authentication can occasionally be tedious, the increased safety is worth it!
- Help your teen set their boards to secret. When users create a new Pinterest board, they’re given the option of making it public or private. Encourage your teen to make their boards secret, so that they can save all the pins they want without compromising their security.
- Set a smart schedule. Due to the website’s refreshable front page, it’s possible to scroll on Pinterest for long chucks of time. Help your kids avoid sinking too much of their time into Pinterest by setting a time limit on the app. Work with them to decide the time limit—if they’re involved in the decision, they’ll be more likely to stay accountable.
- Teach your teen about proper online safety. The shadiest part about Pinterest is how easy the site makes it for kids to access external websites. The bad news: there’s no way to turn this feature off. The good news: with some basic online safety know-how, your teen will know not to mess with external links and can stay safe as they surf.
Despite these safety precautions, you may continue to feel uncomfortable with your child exploring Pinterest. If that’s the case, have a conversation with them where you can both share your views comfortably. Then, work together to create a social media plan that works for your family.
Transitioning to a social media-free smartphone from Troomi Wireless, for example, can protect your child from the harmful effects of social media while keeping them connected with friends and family!
Pinterest Is Great for Adults—Not for Kids
So, is Pinterest safe for kids?
While Pinterest can be a valuable resource for responsible Internet users to find creative inspiration, it isn’t a safe site for kids. This is largely due to the lack of parental controls, overwhelming amount of external links, and potential for exposure to adult-oriented content.
Thankfully, there are so many ways that kids can find inspiration outside of Pinterest.
Next time your child needs some inspo, encourage them to talk to a friend, hit the books, or take a quick walk around the neighborhood. It’s a wonder what a simple walk can do for a creative block!