Reddit is a popular social media website with millions of users worldwide and has a controversial reputation due to its content moderation policies. This GKIS Sensible Parent’s Guide will provide what a parent needs to know about Reddit and offer some suggestions to help keep your children safe while using the website. We also recommend checking out the GKIS Social Media Readiness Training Course, which can help you teach your kids how to safely interact with any social media website.
How long has Reddit been around how popular is it?
Reddit is a hybrid internet forum and social news media website where users can post images, videos, and links to other websites, and other users can leave comments on the original post. As of February 2023, it’s the tenth most visited website on the internet with 4.8 billion monthly visits. It was founded in 2005 by Steve Huffman, Alexis Ohanian, and Aaron Swartz as a bulletin board-style website that would act as “the front page of the internet.” In 2006, the website was acquired by the mass media company Condé Nast Publications, also known for magazine and news companies such as Vogue, The New Yorker, and Vanity Fair.
The website is divided into thousands of subreddits that organize posts by topic. Some subreddits cover broad topics, such as r/gaming for anything video game related, while others are more specific like r/minecraft or r/fortnite for those specific games. There are subreddits for news, relationship advice, political discussion, different hobbies, and nearly anything else you might expect to find on the internet. There are many subreddits dedicated to community support, like r/TwoXChromosomes for women’s rights and r/lgbt for LGBT issues.
Posts and comments on Reddit can be given upvotes and downvotes, which are similar to likes on Twitter or Facebook. Recent posts with multiple upvotes will be displayed at the top of the subreddit it was posted in. Posts with multiple downvotes are less likely to appear and will often be tagged as “controversial” by the website’s filter settings.
Getting Started with Reddit
The only thing Reddit requires to create an account is a valid email address. Reddit’s user agreement states that users need to be over the age of 13, but there is no age verification requirement besides a check box agreeing to the terms and conditions during account creation. Reddit has a mobile app that can be downloaded from the Google Play store or Apple App store, and can also be accessed from any web browser.
Benefits and Popular Features of Reddit
By default, the home page of Reddit shows the subreddit r/popular, which displays a variety of posts from a list of the most popular subreddits, with some restrictions related to political and adult-oriented subreddits. Reddit users can also sort by r/all, which displays the top results from all subreddits on the website.
Reddit users can subscribe to specific subreddits they like, causing those subreddits to appear on their home page. Users can also subscribe to other user profiles so that they can see what another user posts no matter what subreddit it’s posted in. By doing so they can create a curated feed of content that relates to their interests.
Subreddits are mostly created by Reddit users and act as community forums for discussion and sharing media. They are run by moderators, who are users that set and enforce rules within each subreddit but are not paid employees of Reddit. Reddit employees known as administrators only get involved in a subreddit if there are violations of the website’s terms of service and content policies.
Reddit is also known for having large community events on April Fools’ Day every year. In 2015, the subreddit r/thebutton was created, where a sitewide countdown clock could be reset by pushing a button, but each user could only push the button once. In 2017 and 2022, Reddit ran an event called r/place where its community members could collaborate to create pixel artwork on a canvas where each user could only edit a single pixel every five minutes.
Reddit’s Privacy and Safety Options
Reddit’s user settings and account creation process offer several options to protect yourself and your information while you use the website.
- Reddit does not require any personal information besides an email address to create an account.
- In its Safety & Privacy Settings, you can choose whether you want your profile to appear in search engine results from websites like Google or Bing.
- Users can delete their posts, comments, or their entire account from their profile settings at any time.
- Reddit collects personal information about its users but allows users to restrict what information is collected and how it is used in its Safety & Privacy Settings.
- Reddit users can file a data request form to receive a copy of the data that has been collected from their account.
- When an account is deleted, the username is removed from all posts and comments made by that account. However, the posts will still be publicly visible unless they are deleted before the account.
Chat and Private Messages
- Users can choose whether they want to receive chat requests and private messages in their Chat Settings and can restrict messages from accounts less than 30 days old.
- Users can also block individual user profiles, preventing that user from messaging them or sending chat requests.
Risks of Reddit
Reddit has many subreddits dedicated to easily accessible adult content like pornography and graphic violence. Posts from these subreddits are marked as NSFW (internet slang for ‘Not Safe for Work’ or ‘Not Suitable for Workplace’) and excluded from r/popular and r/all. Despite this, directly searching for adult content is only restricted by a check box below the search bar asking if you would like to include NSFW search results. Those results still appear if you select to hide NSFW posts in your user settings.
Additionally, the process for tagging NSFW content is only enforced by moderators, not site administrators. Inappropriate posts that contain nudity are automatically tagged, but ones that do not show explicit nudity can slip through the filtering process. Posts containing graphic violence are also often poorly moderated, and content from subreddits like r/fightporn (videos of street fights) and r/CombatFootage (GoPro videos of military conflicts) often make it to Reddit’s r/all page even if they show severe injuries or death.
Political Content and Hate Speech
Reddit has had many controversies surrounding the political subreddits on its website. In 2015, five popular hate speech subreddits targeting ethnic and gender minorities were banned for violating Reddit’s anti-harassment policies. It banned the subreddit r/altright in 2017 after posts were made which called for the harassment of and leaked the personal information of a man who punched right-wing personality Richard Spencer. Multiple political subreddits such as r/The_Donald, R/DonaldTrump, r/GenderCritical, and r/ChapoTrapHouse were banned under new policies designed to reduce hate speech in 2020.
Despite these efforts, Reddit continues to have problems with hate speech and politically motivated harassment on its platform. While these bans remove the offending subreddits and all posts within them, the users who subscribed and made posts in those subreddits are rarely banned unless they directly violate terms of service. Users from the banned subreddits will often continue posting in other subreddits with similarly relaxed rules about hate speech and discrimination until it is banned as well.
Cyberbullying and Harassment
Reddit is a social media website with a high risk of cyberbullying and harassment. Because Reddit users are anonymous, there are few repercussions for directly sending another user harmful messages or unwanted explicit images. A user’s posts and comments are also publicly visible to all other users, which enables internet stalking behavior. While Reddit does have anti-harassment policies that can result in an offender’s account being banned, there’s little to prevent a banned user from creating another account to continue their harassment.
GKIS Suggestions to Keep Your Kids Safe on Reddit
- You can sign up for the GKIS Connect Family Screen Agreement, a free course that covers the basics of internet safety and keeping open communication between you and your kids about their internet use.
- You can check out the GKIS Social Media Readiness Training course, which contains 10 lessons to help your teens and tweens get ready to responsibly use social media. It also provides access to the private GKIS Connected Family Facebook group, with tips and feedback from Dr. Bennett and other families who have taken the course.
- There’s also the GKIS Screen Safety Toolkit, which is a parent’s guide to setting up parental controls, screen time management, social media & text monitoring, and other technological tools to keep an eye on how your kids use the internet.
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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