Tips for Keeping Your Child Safe on Reddit

Though it’s been around for 15 years, Reddit is currently still the sixth most popular site online, behind Google, YouTube, Amazon, Facebook and Yahoo.  As indicated by its slogan — “The front page of the internet” — the site acts as a catch-all for nearly everything happening on the internet.  Breaking news stories by citizen journalists, many of your favorite cat memes, and funny videos have all likely originated from Reddit.

Reddit appeals to all interests and age groups, including kids.  But the site doesn’t require users to verify their age to read most content, which means users of all ages can be exposed to the platform’s adult content, including subreddits that contain explicit comments and/or images, toxic communities, and cyberbullying users, among other potential threats. This means it is incredibly important that you actively set up safety features and understand how to protect your children when they’re using the site.

What Is Reddit?

Reddit is a simple, public online forum for users to share and curate content related to common interests.  “Subreddits” are public communities about certain topics, from books to skin care to hybrid animals.  Each subreddit name/address begins with “r/,” followed by the topic name (so you could head to r/space to stay on top of breaking developments in aerospace research).  Currently, Reddit reports 1.8 million subreddits, with tens of thousands of new ones added every month.

All the content is user-generated, and people can vote on different posts determining its popularity for other users.  The votes determine what shows up on the front page and in other prominent positions, differentiating Reddit’s content from other sites, like Twitter, that post content in chronological order.

Features to Watch Out For

Reddit posts contain pictures, videos, and/or text which can include explicit images or language.  Subreddits have moderators, but the moderators aren’t employees of the site.  “Mods” are Reddit users who create the subreddit and might volunteer to enforce rules for that subreddit — but the rules are different for every community.

Another feature to monitor involves engaging with other users.  Users can choose to be anonymous, and anyone can send messages to others unless certain settings are activated.

Safety Features and Strategies

If your child is using Reddit and is at least 13 years old, make sure they have an account you have access to, so you can monitor their use and protect their safety.

Monitoring Content

After your child is registered with an account, check their user settings to make sure that adult content is turned off.  Click on their username on the top right-hand side of the page, then click “User Settings.”  Under “Feed Settings” you can turn off adult content, which turns off the ability to view content Reddit deems NSFW (not safe for work).  You can also turn on “Safe browsing mode,” which blurs out posts that are NSFW.

While you’re in the user settings, you may want to customize your child’s “Privacy & Security” settings.  You can make changes based on whether you want their profile to appear in search results or if you want ads targeted to their activity.

Next, keep in mind that registered users are able to post and share content.  Talk to your child about what is OK for them to post and what they shouldn’t share.

Finally, talk to your child about bullying and hate speech.  Make sure they know how to report any posts or comments with offensive content.  The “…” at the bottom of each post has an option to hide the post from the feed or report the content as offensive.

Control Who Can Message Your Child

In the user settings, you can also add users to a whitelist, which designates other users who are allowed to message your child.  Click “Chat & Messaging” in the user settings.  Next to “Who can send you private messages,” switch the drop-down menu option from “Everyone” to “Whitelisted.”

Add trusted friends by username onto the whitelist further down on the page, and make sure these users are people your child knows in real life.  You can look up their usernames on Spokeo to attempt to verify their identities.

How to Block Someone on Reddit

You also may need to block someone on Reddit so they are no longer able to interact with your child.  The field at the top of the “Chat & Messaging” section allows you to type in usernames and add them to the account’s blocked user list.

Deleting Your Child’s Account

If you ultimately decide you aren’t comfortable with your child using the website, you may decide to permanently delete their account.  You can do this by clicking on the user settings and scrolling down to “Deactivate Account.”  But remember, even without an account, your child is still able to visit and search Reddit — and will not have any content restrictions.

Got more questions? Read more of our tips for keeping your kids safe online.

Katrina Ballard is a communications manager in Washington, DC. She holds a master’s degree in public administration and has written extensively on technology, business and more.

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