What is Twitter and is it appropriate for my child?
Here are 5 FACTS on Twitter every parent needs to know:
#1 Microblogging Social Network
Twitter is one of the original social media platforms dating back to 2006. It’s categorized as a News app (ranking #1) but everyone recognizes it as a social media platform known for breaking news, celebrities, politics, and memes.
Twitter accounts are public by default. Posts, or tweets, can contain links, photos, GIFs, or videos. Text-only tweets are limited to 280 characters (formerly 140). This brevity has generated a sense of immediacy to be first to tweet about news while its hot. Brevity + Immediacy = Disastrous (more on that in a bit).
Creating your account requires: Name, Phone Number, and Date of Birth. After verifying your account setup with a text verification code, Twitter will prompt you to upload a bio picture and to describe yourself in 160 characters or less. Choosing what interests you will help Twitter create a stream of relatable content. They will also want your location in order to precisely target content for you (we recommend against this).
Twitter can be accessed via the app or the website: www.twitter.com. Regardless if you create an account, unregistered users can still read tweets online, just not post or comment.
Twitter is more about following other people than making friends. You follow news sites, celebrities, brands, and maybe even your real life friends in order to keep up what’s happening. The more people you follow, they claim, the better your stream.
Hashtags are a way to identify your tweet under a certain theme. For example, #COVID19 will be a defining hashtag of 2020. Trending hashtags and topics are listed on the left side of the page. Hashtags are clickable so if you want to enter a rabbit hole of one topic/theme, jump on in. This is also an easy way to find inappropriate content (such as porn).
A retweet, or RT, is a way to share another person’s tweet. You can share just the tweet itself or add your own commentary. Just like sharing a Facebook post, retweeting is how a tweet goes viral.
Direct Messages on Twitter works similarly to all other social media apps. While the whole of Twitter is public by default, Twitter DMs are completely private and will not show up on someone’s feed. Using a user’s @handle, you can message anyone on Twitter even if they don’t follow you (unless they’ve enable the setting to block them).
#3 Twitter Remorse
The immediacy of tweeting one’s feelings/thoughts/opinions has led to countless public figures retracting and apologizing in remorse. Everyone from the President to the Pope takes to Twitter to publicly announce their thoughts. Here are few tragic cases where tweeting impulsively led to disaster:
- “Going to Africa. Hope I don’t get AIDS. Just kidding. I’m white!”
Publicist Justine Sacco posted this just before boarding a plane to South Africa. She was fired before her flight even landed.
- “Congrats to all the dirty Mexicans in San Antonio”
Former Major League baseball pitcher, Mike Bacsik, posted this on Twitter after the San Antonio Spurs won against another team. Despite his public apology, he was fired from his job at a radio station.
- “Japan is really advanced. They don’t go to the beach. The beach comes to them.”
Comedian, Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of Aflac commercials, lost his job after he posted this tweet following the Japanese tsunami. 75% of Aflac’s business is in Japan
- “I like it when little boys touch me in my silly place. Shhhh!”
James Gunn, director of Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 3, was fired after 10 year old tweets resurfaced expressing his homosexual and pedophilia jokes.
- “@HarryArter2 big hype just for a disappointment like the nine months leading up to your child’s birth”
One Soccer club player to another, Alfie Barker was let go from his team after this tweet callously aimed at Harry Arter after his daughter was stillborn.
Bullying is not just for youth these days. The Twittersphere (as they call it) is home to every loose-lipped and untamed tongue on the internet – all with little to no moderation. Hate is spread like butter on even the most innocent of posts. Whether they are bashing someone’s opinion or wishing another person dead – there seems to be no limit to vile and crass discourse. Grown adults troll Twitter posts to start fights as a form of recreation.
If that wasn’t bad enough, pornography is everywhere on Twitter. Due to the severe lack of moderation, it only takes a click or two to find pornographic videos, pictures, and links. Twitter does label some content as sensitive for users under 18 and directs users to change their settings to allow the content to appear. Any motivated teen who created their own account can do this. Additionally, within, Twitter porn stars can have a “fans only” page and charge for subscribers to see their content.
Most unfortunately, you don’t always have to search for it – it finds you. Our own Brave Parenting account received private messages from “cam girls” inviting us to watch their live show. Additionally, their contribution to sex trafficking and refusal to block pornography has been highly documented. This has landed them on the NCOSE Dirty Dozen List for several years running.
#5 Parental Controls & Ratings
Twitter does not have any “parental controls” per say. The settings, however, allow for adjustment in order to provide a safer environment.
PRIVACY & SAFETY:
- Select “Protect My Tweets” so that only approved followers can see your tweets
- Turn OFF all of the following:
- Photo tagging – limit who can tag you in potentially harmful/inappropriate content
- Direct Messages
- Receive (direct) messages from anyone
- Read receipts
- Connect to Periscope
- Discoverability & Contacts
- Let others find you by your email
- Let others find you by your phone
- Sync address book contacts
- MUTE word/phrase/@username/hashtag one at a time by selecting ADD. You can MUTE from timeline, notifications, and people you don’t follow. You can MUTE for 24 hours, 7 days, 30 days or forever
- Advanced Filters = further muting features
- Preferences – restrict how much Twitter is sending notifications to you by push, SMS, and email
- Disable precise location
- Personalization and Data
- Turn all to strictest level possible
App Store: 17+
Google Play: Mature 17+
Brave Parenting: 18+
Twitter was rated 4+ for the longest time – which seems insane to us! Brave Parenting recommends no social media for teens under 16 years old. For Twitter, however we raise the age to 18. As always, there may be exceptions but the overall environment of Twitter is too toxic for the high school-aged brain. And frankly, we say 18 simply because they are adults and we cannot do much to stop them. Given the opportunity, I would continue to discourage the app for your young adult children in college as well. There is just too little decent character displayed to be of benefit. Rather, the app is more likely to promote unkindness, malice, and a host of other negative characteristics that cause you lose faith in humanity.
And then there is all the sexually explicit content so readily available.