Quick: ask your kiddo what the word twitter means.
What did they say? If they’re like eight-year old me, they likely said something along the lines of “the sound that birds make,” then flapped around the room, cawing and whistling as they went. If they grew up in the modern, more digital era, however, their answer was probably, “a social media website!”
We here at Troomi aren’t the biggest fans of social media for kids. Websites like Twitter make it easy for adults to connect with family and friends, but when it comes to kids, social media does more harm than good. However, as your children enter teendom, they might ask you to help them join a social media site like Twitter. If they’re on the mischievous side, they may even get an account on their own. In fact, Pew Research Center reports that one in four teens already uses Twitter!
As a parent, you get to decide whether your teen uses social media like Twitter. Before you do, though, it’s helpful to consider some big questions: Is Twitter safe for kids? Why is Twitter rated 17? At the end of the day, what age is Twitter appropriate for?
Before we delve into these important inquiries, let’s talk a little bit more about the social media sensation that’s sweeping the nation.
What Is Twitter?
Like most social media services, Twitter is a website where users can share their thoughts, feelings, and opinions with friends and followers. To do this, users post “tweets,” which are short messages of up to 280 characters, onto their profile. Other users can then like and comment on these posts, or else “retweet” them so they show up on their own profile. Twitter isn’t only limited to words, though—users can also post photos, gifs, and videos.
Here’s a quick Twitter history lesson. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Twitter was launched in July 2006 by engineer Jack Dorsey and a small group of podcasters. The goal was to create a “short message service on which one could share small blog-like updates with friends.” Since its inception, Twitter has skyrocketed in popularity, with about one in five US adults active on the site. That’s a whopping 80 million people—more than fifteen times the population of Norway!
People of all backgrounds are active on Twitter. Politicians use it to share their platforms, brands use it to increase engagement and advertising interest, and celebrities use it to stay relevant in the ever-shifting landscape of Internet fame. Everyday people, including teens, primarily use the service to stay connected and share some laughs with family and friends.
Is Twitter Safe for Kids?
Now that we have a better idea of what Twitter is, let’s answer the age-old question: is Twitter safe for kids?
The bottom line: Twitter isn’t safe for younger kids. Like all social media sites, Twitter is a breeding ground for cyberbullies, inappropriate material, and tech addiction. In fact, there is no “Twitter for kids,” as users under 13 can’t even make an account. And if you’re wondering, “Is Twitter safe for 13 year olds,” the answer is still no! Here’s why:
- Your child can’t always control what Tweets they see. Like many social media sites, Twitter gives users the ability to repost, or “retweet,” posts that others have made onto their own profile. If a friend that your child follows reposts something inappropriate, it will show up on your child’s timeline, potentially exposing them to adult content and coarse language.
- Your child can’t always control who sees their Tweets. If your child’s Twitter profile is set to Public, anyone and everyone can follow them and see their Tweets. Their own Tweets can also be retweeted, exposing them to a wider audience of strangers. This makes it easy for hackers, cyberbullies, and child predators to learn compromising information about your children. Yikes!
- Twitter is a nesting ground for cyberbullies. Cyberbullies run rampant on social media sites, and Twitter is no exception. In fact, some people use Twitter to “subtweet,” or post a negative message about someone without explicitly using their name. Basically, it’s the digital version of talking about someone behind their back. If your child is showing any of the warning signs of being cyberbullied, lend them a listening ear and encourage them to block the bully as soon as possible.
- Twitter doesn’t always censor adult content. While Twitter’s sensitive media policy makes it clear that graphic violence and hate speech aren’t welcome on the website, adult content like pornography isn’t always censored. Instead, it’s marked as “sensitive content” and hidden to users who are under 18. This filter isn’t failproof, however, and some content may slip past unnoticed.
- Twitter is addictive. Have you ever opened a social media app for five minutes, only to later put it down and notice that an hour has gone by? That may be a warning sign of social media addiction. Websites like Twitter make it easy for teens and adults alike to spend hours scrolling. In a world as beautiful and exciting as our own, it’s better to delete social media entirely than risk tech addiction.
My Child Has Twitter; How Can I Make it Safe?
Despite parental warnings that social media isn’t safe for kids, some teens may find a way to download it without permission. When this happens, it’s important to have a conversation and communicate with your child. Ask them why they created an account. If you feel comfortable with them maintaining their online presence, take these steps to ensure that your child stays safe as they traverse the terrain of Twitter.
- Make their account private.
- Teach them to accept follow requests only from people they actually know.
- Turn off Location Services.
- Disallow DMs from strangers.
- Block accounts that make them uncomfortable.
If you don’t feel comfortable with your child having social media, let them know the reasons why. After all, social media can be pretty dangerous, which is why smartphones from Troomi Wireless remove it entirely. Instead, Troomi phones encourage kids to explore the real world and get to know themselves free from the comparison culture inherent to social media. Click here to learn a bit more!
Twitter Is Great for Adults; Not for Kids.
Let’s sum up! At the end of the day, is Twitter safe for kids?
Ultimately, Twitter is a great way for adults to connect with friends and family, stay politically active and educated, and fit in a few laughs along the way; but kids should steer clear. Social media like Twitter does more harm than good when it comes to kids and teens, largely due to cyberbullies, potential exposure to adult content, and the risk of tech addiction. Instead of spending time scrolling Twitter, encourage your kiddo to get outside and explore the real world! I promise that they’ll have more fun outside than online.
And don’t forget to check out more posts on the Troomi blog! We update it every weekday with technology tips, tricks, and terms that you won’t want to miss. See you soon!