Fast, entertaining content seems to be the only way to hold the attention span of today’s children and teens. This becomes an issue when virality becomes more important than the content being put out or the audience who will receive it. TikTok users have realized that they can quickly create a viral video by taking Reddit stories and resharing them over clips from popular video games like Minecraft, Roblox, and Subway Surfers. Today’s article covers why this content is dangerous and how you can keep your child safe from digital injury with our Screen Safety Toolkit.
The Popularity of Minecraft, Roblox, and Subway Surfers
Between 2016 and 2021, Minecraft users have risen from 40 million to 93 million with a peak of 131 million users in 2020. Surveys have found that up to 54% of boys and 46% of girls aged 3 to 12 play Minecraft. The popularity of Minecraft is undeniable. Take a look down any aisle of children’s clothing and you will find item after item filled with popular references from the game. Covid-19 only increased the popularity of the online game accessible on most gaming consoles, with users increasing by 14 million from 2020 to 2021.
Roblox is another popular children’s game that has bankrolled off the pandemic and increased in users over the past few years. Between 2021 and 2020, the platform added more than 146 million users to its servers. In 2016, Roblox had 30+ million users. Today they have more than 202 million monthly active users.
While the average user of Minecraft is 24 years old, only 14% of Roblox users are over 25 years old. 67% of Roblox users are under 16 years old, and 54.86% of users are under 13 years old. The popularity of Roblox is reflected on TikTok through a large number of Roblox fan accounts owned by young users. In fact, there have been many audio trends on the platform that are accredited to edits by Roblox users.
While less popular than Minecraft and Roblox, Subway Surfers is still the most downloaded and most-played mobile game in the app store. Between 2021 and 2022, Subway Surfers saw more than 2 times the number of downloads with 5.43 million daily users. These numbers are impressive, as, unlike Minecraft and Roblox, Subway Surfers is only available for download on mobile smartphones. It is not available on any other gaming platform. While there is no available data for the average age of Subway Surfer players, the game is recommended for ages 9 and up.
All three of these games are different in their gameplay but similar in their popularity and appeal to younger audiences. Videos made with clips from these games are sure to catch the attention of a younger audience who is trying to view content related to their interests.
Harmful Reddit Content and How They Use Kids’ Games
Reddit claims on its website to be “a network of communities where people can dive into their interests, hobbies, and passions.” Users post on so-called “subreddits” dedicated to topics from the general to much more specific niches.
Today there are over 2.8 million subreddits and Reddit has 52 million users daily. Of their monthly users, 79% are between the ages of 18 to 34 and almost 64% of those users are men. When children encounter posts from Reddit, they are viewing material often made for and by adult men, leading to some very inappropriate content.
A simple search for “Reddit stories” on TikTok will show you video after video of Reddit threads overlaid with a video of someone playing a kid’s game and read by a voiceover. The threads contain content from various subreddits like “/AmITheAsshole” but most contain inappropriate “NSFW” (Not Safe for Work) content. A scroll down the search shows video after video of content with titles like, “My mom keeps having sex with my boyfriend…” or “What do you tell your partner when you’re horny?” or “What did you not know about sex until you lost your virginity?” The last question is from a Subway Surfers video with 1.6 million likes and 13.5 million views from a user with similar content and over 55.4 thousand followers.
The creators of these videos use the popularity of these kids’ games to bring more viewers to their content and help their virality. In doing so, they are promoting sex, adult situations, and overall unsafe content. Each of these videos is followed up by hundreds or thousands of comments from young kids and teens adding their own answers to the question proposed. A quick look at commenters’ profiles revealed that half were between the ages of 13 to 17, and each was commenting on their own sexual experiences to millions of viewers.
What Parents Can Do
- Start healthy conversations about social media use using our GKIS Connected Families Screen Agreement.
- Monitor your child’s TikTok (if they have one).
- Set up content preferences and block out video keywords or put the account on restricted mode in the settings and privacy section of TikTok.
- View an account’s watch and comment history and see what content your child is consuming and interacting with.
- For younger children, consider waiting before allowing them to have their own TikTok account.
- When they do adopt a TikTok account, scroll together to choose what content they view and influence the algorithm that will offer content automatically.
- As your child gets older, work with them to establish what they are doing and looking at on social media. Preparing them for the possibility of adult content can help them in discovering it on their own and possibly suffering a digital injury.
- If you fear your child may be watching inappropriate Reddit content without your knowledge and permission, check out our GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit. This toolkit helps to empower parents and provides them with smart tech tools to filter, monitor, and manage online behavior.
- To protect your child, prevent digital injury, and prepare them for social media use check out our GKIS Social Media Readiness Course.
Thanks to CSUCI intern, Katherine Carroll for researching how TikTok users use Reddit content and kids’ games for views.
I’m the mom psychologist who will help you GetKidsInternetSafe.
Onward to More Awesome Parenting,
Tracy S. Bennett, Ph.D.
Mom, Clinical Psychologist, CSUCI Adjunct Faculty
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