1. What is TikTok? TikTok (originally called musical.ly) is a social network for sharing user-generated videos, mostly of people lip-synching to popular songs. Users can create and upload their own videos where they lip-synch, sing, dance, or just talk. You can also browse and interact with other users' content, which covers a wide range of topics, songs, and styles. These videos can be grouped by hashtags, which often correspond to challenges, memes, or current events (i.e., #pandemiclife)
2. How safe is TikTok? Using any social network can be risky, but it's possible for kids to safely use the app with adult supervision (and a private account). TikTok has different rules for different ages:
Users under 13 can't post videos or comment, and content is curated for a younger audience.
For kids age 13 to 15, accounts are private by default; only friends can comment on videos, and other users can't duet (explained below) with your videos.
Only users 16 and over can livestream and use direct messaging, and only users over 18 can buy, send, or receive virtual gifts.
TikTok also offers some tools for parents to limit how much time kids spend on the app and what kids can see. Parents can also use Restricted Mode to reduce mature content or Family Safety Mode to pair their account with their kid's to control settings completely.
3. Is TikTok appropriate for kids? If you supervise your kids, use safety settings, and stick to songs you already know, TikTok can be a kid-friendly experience. But TikTok's emphasis on popular music means many videos include swearing and sexual lyrics, so it may not be age-appropriate for kids to use on their own. Even with limits, it's easy to find people wearing revealing clothing and dancing suggestively, although TikTok won't let you search for objectionable content such as "porn." As with social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat, TikTok has a commercial element that encourages kids to buy stuff. Users can also earn TikTok Reward points by inviting friends to download the app, and then they can redeem those points for coupons from brands like Sephora and Uber. You'll find plenty of other marketing and purchasing opportunities.
4. What age is TikTok recommended for? Common Sense recommends the app for age 15+ mainly due to the privacy issues and mature content. TikTok requires that users be at least 13 years old to use the full TikTok experience, although there is a way for younger kids to access the app. Anyone under the age of 18 must have approval of a parent or guardian -- but there are plenty of young tween users.
5. Can kids under 13 use TikTok? If your younger kid or tween wants to use the app, there's a section of the app for kids under 13 that includes additional safety and privacy features. Kids can only see curated, clean videos, and aren't allowed to comment, search, or post their own videos. However, the lack of these features makes it unappealing for most kids, and bypassing that section only requires entering a false birthdate, so it's not perfect. The section is only available in the United States. It was introduced in 2019, after TikTok settled with the Federal Trade Commission for child privacy violations from TikTok's predecessor, Musical.ly.
6. What are TikTok Challenges? Challenges are any idea that goes viral. They can be songs, activities, or dances that start trending and then get copied by users on the platform. Sometimes they're spontaneous, but sometimes they're planned out by brands, musical artists, or influencers for marketing purposes. Most popular challenges, such as the intricately choreographed dance number Renegade and pranks such as the backwards hoodie fridge mixup are harmless. But some, such as the skull-breaker, are really dangerous. Learn more about viral internet challenges and how to talk to your kid about them.
7. Does TikTok have parental controls? TikTok offers a few ways for parents to manage kids' accounts. You can either enable time limits and the content filter on your kid's phone and protect the settings with a passcode, or you can download TikTok, create your own account, and use the Family Pairing feature to manage your kid's TikTok settings using your phone. (If you choose Family Pairing, you'll need your kid's phone to sync the settings.)
Here's how to enable screen limits and filter content on your kid's phone: Go to your kid's account and tap the three dots at the top right of the user profile. Then select "Digital Wellbeing" next to the icon of an umbrella. From there, select the features you want to enable:
Screen Time Management. This setting limits users to a maximum of two hours on the app per day, but you can limit it to 40 minutes. If you're only enabling this on your kid's phone, choose a passcode to lock the setting.
Restricted Mode. This blocks mature content, but even with the filter on, kids using the app on their own might come across age-inappropriate videos. Lock the setting with a passcode. To set up Family Pairing so you can manage the above settings, plus safety and privacy, first download TikTok onto your phone and create an account. Then, make sure you have your kid's phone and their TikTok login handy.
Family Pairing. On both phones,tap the three dots next to the user profile; tap Family Pairing and sync your account to your kid's via the QR code. Keep in mind kids can always re-download TikTok and create a new account using a different phone number or email address, so any controls you enable aren't foolproof.
8. How can I monitor my kid's activity on TikTok? Other than Restricted Mode, there's no way to filter out content on TikTok, so parents are encouraged to share an account with kids over 13. This will let you keep an eye on what your kid is viewing and posting. Parents of older kids who are more resistant to monitoring can ask about their favorite video creators and get to know their videos (with or without your kid). Also, take the time to regularly look at the most popular songs, videos, memes, and challenges.
1. What is BeReal? BeReal is a French social media photo sharing app released in 2020, gaining popularity in 2022. It encourages users to post a photo of themselves and their lives without filters or editing to the images every day at a different time.
2. How do I create an account? When a user downloads the BeReal app, they must add their phone number, name and age. They then create a username and password to use the app. At this point, they are asked to create their first BeReal post to start seeing others’ photos too.
3. How do I post a photo? Then every day at a different time, the app alerts users that it’s time to take a photo of what they are doing in the moment. Users have 2 minutes to take a photo and submit it to BeReal for others to see. The picture features whatever the user focused on as well as an image of the user in their current state in the top corner.
Before submitting the photo, they must choose an audience (friends only or everyone). Users can also share their location and save the image to their device. After the user posts the photo, they can add a caption. If the photo is shared outside of the standard two minute window, other users can see a note that tells them this.
You cannot see someone else’s photo if you have not yet posted your own for the day.
4. How do I interact with others? After a user posts their own image, they can see others’ and react to them. To comment on someone’s photo, users must be friends. However, if ‘everyone’ can see the photo, then anyone can react to it.
There are six standard emojis to react with along with an option to create a RealMoji. With RealMoji, users can create their own by taking a picture of themselves. For example, instead of the thumbs up emoji, a user could send themselves give a thumbs up.
6. What should I watch out for on BeReal? Like any app or platform where users might interact with strangers, BeReal has some features that parents should be aware of:
Pictures are unmoderated: this means that if your child is scrolling through the Discovery feed, they may come across an item someone posted that features inappropriate content. Additionally, RealMojis could feature the same kind of content. It’s important that users report this kind of content if seen for review.
No parental controls: because of the nature of this app, there are minimal privacy controls and no parental controls. That doesn’t mean it is unsafe. However, if your child is under the age of 13, they may not understand the nature of the app and misuse it.
Photos use the front and back camera: although the user might point at one thing to photograph, the camera will also take a picture of the user themselves. It’s important for young people to be aware of their surroundings to avoid posting anything they don’t want online.
Some people are photographed without their permission: scrolling through BeReal reveals images that users have taken that feature other people who may not be aware they are being photographed. This is an issue of consent that some young people might not consider.
It’s easy to connect with strangers: some young people may send or receive friend requests from strangers through the Discovery tab if they are sharing with everyone. Once another user is on the ‘Friends’ list, they are able to comment on photos. They may also receive notifications about your posts. However, users can delete others from this list very easily.
7. How do I keep my child safe on BeReal? With any new social media app, gaming platform or similar, it’s important to discuss with your child the benefits and risks to ensure they are aware of how to get help where needed. Some conversation points might include:
1. What is Instagram? Instagram is a popular, free social networking app that lets users post photos and videos, follow celebrities and friends, and send messages. It's owned by Facebook but has a photo-forward format that's more appealing to teens.
2. How does Instagram work? Once you create an account, you get your feed going by following friends and celebrities (Instagram helpfully suggests some for you). When you're ready to share a post, tap the plus sign and select what you want to share from your recent photos and videos. Depending on the media type you're sharing, you can choose from all sorts of filters and image-editing tools to make your post look cool. Then you add a caption and a hashtag if you wish (which categorizes all posts on the same topic together). You get the option of adding a location to your post, but it's not recommended that kids and teens use this function. Instagram offers a lot more features, too, including:
Direct messages (DMs). You can send direct messages to one or more people -- including people you don't follow and who don't follow you.
Disappearing messages. This is a Snapchat-like feature that lets you send timed photo or video messages that recipients can only view once before they disappear.
Stories. These are 15-second videos or slideshows that live in a circle separate from other posts. To create one, tap Your Story, tap the camera or scroll through your media, and swipe through the filters to add effects. Then select Send To to share your post on Instagram or Facebook, or with specific people or groups.
Instagram TV (IGTV). These are longer-form videos programmed by Instagram (i.e., they're not by your friends or followers). Kids can also create their own IGTV channels and broadcast themselves, sort of like on YouTube.
3. How old should kids be to use Instagram? According to the terms of service, you have to be 13, but there's no age-verification process, so it's very easy for kids under 13 to sign up. Common Sense rates Instagram for age 15 and up because of mature content, access to strangers, marketing ploys, and data collection. Check out our social media rules for high schoolers.
4. What kinds of content will my kid see on Instagram? The kinds of content kids will see mostly depends on whom they follow: If they only follow friends and don't search for anything, they may see only pictures of their friends having fun. But kids rarely limit their feeds to people they know, so it's likely they'll see mature content (including sexy stuff, swearing, and substance use), mean or sexual comments, and hashtags about suicide, anorexia, and other concerning topics. If they follow celebrities, they'll probably also see marketing.
5. How can I monitor my kid's activity on Instagram? You can ask your kid to give you a tour of their Insta. Ask them to walk you through their account, explain memes and comments, discuss friends, and share whatever comes up. Or try one of these ideas:
Create your own Instagram account and follow your kid. You'll see what they post (unless they block you), but you won't see their DMs (direct messages).
Follow their friends. It's not unusual for parents to be friends with their kids' friends online (but you should hold back on comments). If you're close with your kids' friends, you can follow each other and keep tabs on your kid's doings.
Ask for your kid's Instagram username and password. Then, you can log in as them and review their accounts.
Do spot checks. Either random or scheduled, these check-ins give you time to sit down together and go through your kid's feed.
Install a third-party monitoring app. Parental controls such as Bark give you a lot of visibility into what kids are doing online. Learn more about parental controls.
6. What's the deal with "rinstas" and "finstas"? Rinstas and finstas are additional Instagram accounts that are completely separate from each other. Finsta stands for "fake Instagram," and these accounts reflect a kid's true self and are only meant for very close friends to see. Rinsta is a kid's "real" Instagram that's public-facing and highly curated, and they project the type of ideal online persona that's hard to achieve in reality. In other words, their "real" account is the public one everyone can find and see.
Not every kid maintains more than one account, but don't be alarmed if your kid does. Instagram allows users to keep up to five accounts. As long as they follow responsible social media practices such as using privacy settings, not posting things they'll regret, and limiting their audience, finstas and rinstas can be useful tools as kids go through the natural process of figuring out their identities.
To see whether your kid has more than one account, you'll need access to their phone. Go to their profile page by tapping the person icon at the bottom of the screen. Then tap the username at the top of the screen. If they have another account, you'll see it there. Another option is to stay logged in to their account(s) on your device so you can see all their activity. While you're at it, it's a good idea to make sure your kid's account names aren't too racy or revealing. Lots of kids include their ages, personal details, or even physical characteristics in their handles, but that can make them a target for predators as well as brands. Also, check to make sure your kid didn't create an account that's meant for a business. You'll know if the account information contains a phone number and an email address.
7. Is there any way to limit or restrict my kid's activity on Instagram, including connecting with strangers? Instagram accounts are public by default, so the first thing to do is make your kid's private. To do this, go to Settings from your profile page. Select Privacy and toggle on Private Account. With a private account, only people you approve can see what you post. You get a lot of options in the Privacy section -- and you should spend some time here if you're helping your kid set up their first account. You can't lock Privacy settings, though, so be aware that kids can change them back. A few more key Instagram privacy settings:
Comment controls. You can limit comments to followers, block comments from specific people, hide "offensive" comments, and create specific filters for words and phrases.
Resharing to stories. You can control whether or not other people can reshare your posts.
Photos and videos. You can prevent people from automatically adding pictures of you to your profile without your approval and hide photos and videos so they don't display in your feed.
8. What are some other risks associated with kids using Instagram? Because Instagram is so image-based, kids who focus on external validation can get preoccupied with perfection, image, and status, which can negatively affect their well-being. It's not uncommon for some users to curate their feed for public consumption by uploading only photos and videos that show them at their best and by deleting posts that don't get a certain number of likes. And with so many filters and celebrities and posts of people having fun, it can definitely affect a teen's body image and sense of self. Some people even take risks to get the perfect shot, all for Instagram. To keep up, teens may post sexy pictures or reveal too much personal information. The effects of "influencers" are real, so knowing whom your kid follows and why might give you insight into who they admire and what products that person might be pushing (note that there's often a way to buy right from the app). As with any other social media app that includes likes and follows, some teens use those as a measuring stick and compare themselves to others. If your kid's activity on the app takes a turn from connection and fun to perfection and anxiety, it's time to take a break. Using it to scroll through other people's fabulous photos for long stretches every day without using it to joke with friends or send messages can make teens feel worse than when they opened the app.
9. What should I do if it seems like my kid can't stop looking at Instagram? All social media uses persuasive techniques to keep users engaged, and while it can help kids feel connected to friends and family -- especially during times of isolation like extended school breaks -- it's easy to get sucked in for longer periods than is healthy. If your teen has trouble logging off when they have other stuff to do or they just need a break, you can try using Instagram's Your Activity feature, which the company introduced to help people be more aware of the time they're spending on the app and to set limits for themselves. To get to Your Activity, go to the profile page, tap the three horizontal lines, select Your Activity, and then tap Time. You'll see your daily average, and you can set a time limit and get a reminder to stop. If your kid has mastered self-regulation, Your Activity may work to curb their use. If not, you can try using the parental controls built into your phone's operating system (Screen Time on iOS or the Family Link app on Android) to block access and set time limits on all the apps on your kid's phone. A few other tricks: Adjust or turn off notifications completely to calm the need to check the phone every few minutes; and tell kids to stop scrolling once they see the "You're all caught up!" message that tells them there's no new content to see since the last time they checked.
1. What is Snapchat? Snapchat is a popular messaging app that lets users exchange pictures and videos (called snaps) that are meant to disappear after they're viewed. It's advertised as a "new type of camera" because the essential function is to take a picture or video, add filters, lenses, or other effects and share them with friends.
2. How does Snapchat work? All you need to sign up is your name, an email address, and your birth date. On Snapchat, users go by a handle, and Snapchatters gravitate toward silly names. To add friends, you can upload your contacts or search for people you know. You can also automatically add someone by taking a picture of their "Snapcode," a special QR code unique to each user.
After that, things get a little confusing. On Snapchat, photos -- not text -- usually start the communication. To begin a conversation, you tap the big camera circle and take a snap. There are all sorts of photo-editing tools (you have to experiment to figure out what they do) as well as filters to adorn your images. Once you customize your snap, you can send it to anyone on your friends list, add it to your story (which is a record of the day that your friends can view for 24 hours), and add it to Snap Map (which displays your photo on a map of your location that can be viewed by anyone on Snapchat).
Snapchat provides several options for texting and managing photos. In addition to individual texting, Snapchat also offers group texting and group stories that everyone in a group can contribute to. You can delete the text messages you send, though in a group chat the other people will see that you've deleted something. In terms of Snaps, you can delete unopened ones that use a saved picture (not taken on the spot). You can't delete snaps that include pictures you just took (and didn't save).
3. How old do you have to be to use Snapchat? According to the terms of service, users must be 13. You have to enter your birth date to set up an account, but there's no age verification, so it's easy for kids under 13 to sign up. Common Sense Media rates Snapchat OK for teens 16 and up, mainly because of the exposure to age-inappropriate content and the marketing ploys, such as quizzes, that collect data.
4. Do messages really disappear on Snapchat? It depends. If you set a time limit on a snap, it will disappear after it's viewed. However, recipients can take a screenshot of an image using their phones or a third-party screen-capture app. A phone screen-capture will notify the sender that the image was captured. But third-party apps don't trigger a notification. For these reasons, it's best that teens understand that nothing done online is really temporary. Before sending a sexy or embarrassing snap of themselves or someone else, it's important to remember that the picture could circulate the school by tomorrow morning.
5. What are Snapstreaks? With a Snapstreaks, two users have snapped back and forth within a 24-hour period for three days in a row. Once you've established a streak, special emojis and statistics display next to the streakers' names to show you how long you've maintained a streak. Why do they matter? For one thing, they add to your overall Snapchat score (basically a number that reflects how much you use the app). For another, they can occasionally become the most important thing in a kid's life. Because of the intense bonds kids can form over social media, they can feel that a Snapstreak is a measure of their friendship, and if they don't keep it up they'll let the other person down. Teens have even been known to give friends access to their Snapchat accounts to keep a streak going if they can't do it themselves (for example, if their phone gets taken away for being online too much). This can lead to feelings of pressure, anxiety, and compulsion, so it's good to know if your kid has streaks going to get a window into why that selfie might feel really important.
6. What's Snap Map? Snap Map displays your location on a map in real time. Only your Snapchat friends can see where you are. If your friends have opted into Snap Map, you can see their locations, too. (You can turn this off or use it in Ghost Mode, which allows you to see the map but not be seen by others.) Snap Map also features news and events from around the world -- for example, a political rally in Nicaragua, which displays as an icon on a map of the world. Kids can submit snaps to the Snap Map, and their name and location could appear on a public map. But the bigger risk with Snap Map is a teen having their location seen by all their friends -- since some of their Snapchat contacts may not be real friends. Unless there's a specific event and it makes it easier for friends to know each other's location, it's best to leave Snap Maps off or use it in Ghost Mode.
7. Is Snapchat safe for tweens and teens? Most kids use Snapchat to goof around and stay in contact with their friends -- end of story. Yes, there's some mature content, but it's appropriate for most teens 16 and up. That said, there are three key risky areas:
The myth of disappearing messages. When Snapchat first started, it was labeled "the sexting app" because people sent intimate photos, assuming they'd self-destruct. Any app can be misused, but a lot of kids mistakenly believe that Snapchat has a built-in Get Out of Jail Free card. Teens really need to understand that the content they share can be saved and shared and may never go away. It's best to have this conversation before they download Snapchat, but it's never too late. Talk about whether any of their friends have ever pressured them to send a sexy image and discuss why someone who would do that does not have your best interests at heart. Kids should also ask permission before sharing a picture of someone else.
The time suck. Snapchat is a ton of fun to use, and there's lots to discover on it. Snapstreaks and stories add a time-pressure element that makes kids feel like they have to check in. If it ever seems like your kid is stressing and not using the app for fun, it's time to step in.
Privacy and safety. Since it's so easy to add friends in Snapchat, you can end up with lots of people you don't know well on your friends list. And depending on your settings, the app can collect a ton of data about your habits in -- and outside of -- the app. Snapchat also works with a lot of third parties that they share your data with.
8. How do I monitor Snapchat and use the settings? The biggest challenge for parents is that there's no way to see your kid's activity in the app in the same way as on other social media platforms. Since there's no feed to scroll through like on Instagram, for example, there's not much to monitor.
If you decide to say yes to Snapchat, focus on the privacy settings. Sit down with your kid and together go into the app's settings (the little gear icon next to your profile image). Scroll down to "Who Can..." This is where you can control important safety features such as who can see your location and who can view your story. This is a perfect time to talk to your kid about using their Snapchat account safely and responsibly. Discuss when and how often you'll check in on how they're using it and how they're feeling about it. Explain that you understand that social media is important to them, and, at the same time, your role is to protect them. Don't forget to ask your teen to show you some of their snaps and some of the cool features they like in the app. That'll make it a little less scary for you -- and send the message that you're on the same team.
1. What is Discord? Discord is a free app for mobile and PC that lets people chat via text, voice, or video in real time. Combining the internet-calling features of Skype with Reddit-like discussion boards, it's broadened from gamers-only to a social networking site for communities of all types. Users include those with non-gaming interests like anime, TV series, music, and more. It can also be an easy-to-use group-chatting tool for friends.
2. How old should you be to use Discord? Discord requires that users be at least 13 years old, although they do not verify users' age upon signup. Common Sense Media also recommends that Discord users be at least 13 due to its open chat.
Because it's all user-generated, there's the potential for plenty of inappropriate content, like swearing and graphic language and images (though it's entirely possible to belong to a group that forbids these). Discord also has "NSFW" channels and servers that require users to be 18 or older to join (but it's easy to click through the verification).
3. What are servers on Discord? Servers are the main communities on Discord, often focused on a single game or topic. Anyone on the app can create a server upon signup. Servers can be private and require an invitation to join, or public, which anyone can take part in. Servers are broken up into text channels and voice channels. Some have bots (computer programs that mimic human interaction) that do automatic moderation, welcoming, and community management. Discord doesn't have an in-app way to search for servers unless you've already joined them, so users have to be invited directly or else find out about them from other sources.
4. Is Discord safe? With the right privacy settings and monitoring, it's easy to use Discord safely. However, there's always a risk when it comes to sites and apps with open chat. The safest way to use Discord is to only accept friend requests and participate in private servers with people you already know.
Although it's rare, predators have targeted kids by using Discord's public servers to send direct messages (DMs). Even though most server moderators (and other users) are often quick to patrol this kind of behavior, kids and adults should know how to recognize and deal with creeps and online predators.
5. How is Discord related to Fortnite and Pokemon Go? Fortnite and Pokémon Go are two games with particularly big followings on Discord, especially for older kids and teens. Lots of public servers focus those games, but users also create private servers to chat with friends while they play together. For example, a team on Fortnite could create a private server on Discord to chat and strategize together in order to avoid the public chat on Fortnite itself.
Discord also allows an in-game "overlay" for Fortnite and other PC games so gamers can use Discord to chat directly within those games (instead of having the app open in the background or using the in-game chat).
6. Are there privacy settings for Discord? Discord has privacy and safety settings that allow users to control who has the ability to send them direct messages or add them as a friend. Its "Safe Direct Messaging" feature can automatically scan and delete direct messages that contain explicit content (although this isn't foolproof, and it doesn't apply outside of DMs).
Discord also lets its users decide whether the app can collect and use their data for customization or analytics purposes. To view and change your privacy settings, select the "User Settings" gear icon by your username, then choose the "Privacy & Safety" menu item.
7. Are there parental controls for Discord? At this time, Discord doesn't offer parental controls, so there's no way for parents and caregivers to restrict content or password-protect the privacy settings within the app.
8. How does Discord chat work? Each server on Discord has both text and voice channels. Text channels allow people to type messages to each other, while voice channels let people use the microphone and speakers on their device to talk with each other. Users can directly invite friends to a specific chat channel, or you can join a channel after being invited to a server.
Some channels have limits on how many people can join, which are set by the server owners. Server owners can also set their own rules for what is or isn't allowed (for example, swearing or hate speech) and block from chat any users who break the rules.
9 Can you share images or video on Discord? You can share images, video, and GIFs on Discord, either in text channels or direct messages (voice channels are audio only). Discord also allows for video chat and screen sharing in direct messages.
10. Is Discord just for gaming content? You don't have to play video games or even discuss them to use the app. Just about any topic is represented on Discord, although gaming, music, anime, and memes tend to be the most popular categories. The app can also be used for friends and groups to chat with each other directly.
1. What is Minecraft? Minecraft is a sandbox-adventure video game. The style is called "sandbox" because it provides a creative landscape with no fixed goal and endless possibilities. Its blocky design is rather kid-like, too: Characters' heads are square, colors appear in chunks, and even trees look like they were grown in a Lego lab. Like any playground, Minecraft doesn't come with instructions, and it's relatively simple to pick up and play. You learn the game through exploration, experimentation, watching YouTube videos, and reading other fan-created content (there's a lot of it online). And the more you play, the more you learn what to do and how to use the available resources, such as redstone and different kinds of ore, to make ever-more-complex tools and structures.
2. How do you play Minecraft? The first thing you do in the game is create a world and name it. Then you set off exploring it and building it as you go. You might pick up some wood from a tree and hone it into a batch of sticks. You can add more wood to the sticks and make a pickax. With the pickax, you can mine some stone to build a house. And so goes the cycle of the game. While you're exploring, you might encounter characters called hostile mobs, which could be spiders, zombies, and endermen (black creatures with glowing eyes). Depending on the difficulty level you set, you can track your character's health stats and maintain them as you're building your world. The story in Minecraft is whatever you want it to be, and you can play it by yourself or against others in multiplayer.
3. What are Minecraft's different modes? Minecraft offers three modes of play: Adventure, Creative, and Survival. Each has four levels of difficulty: Peaceful, Easy, Normal, and Hard. The difficulty levels determine how threatening the mobs are, up the ante on your health stats, and add other challenges. Adventure and Survival modes are similar, but Adventure mode is designed for gamers to play on downloadable game maps created by other players. These modes have you battling hostile creatures, building structures, and continually managing your health stats. Creative mode is the best option for novices and younger players: It gives you full access to all the resources in the game so you can build endlessly without worrying about dying or fending off mobs (you'll see them, but they leave you alone).
4. Is Minecraft safe? Minecraft can be played very safely. In single-player Creative mode on the Peaceful setting, for example, there is no interaction with others and no conflict. But eventually, most kids want to play with others, and multiplayer gaming invites some risks. Though Minecraft communities are generally welcoming, and server moderators are responsible for keeping things orderly, kids can get exposed to strong language, bullying, and even hate speech. Minecraft isn't immune from predators, either. And since fans of the game range in age all the way up to adult, the player-created environments can contain bloody (but not gory) battles, sexual scenarios, and other mature content. If you want to allow your kid to play multiplayer, the best way to reduce the possibility of exposure to age-inappropriate language, content, and interactions is for them to join a "realm," an invitation-only personal Minecraft server for up to 10 players created by someone they know. Otherwise, find an established server with very good moderators, such as one of these vetted Minecraft servers or one just for kids.
5. What is the right age to start playing Minecraft? Because of its complexity, potential for mild violence, and online community, we recommend Minecraft for kids age 8 and up. If you have younger kids who want to play but aren't quite ready, you have options. These Minecraft alternatives can occupy them with a very similar style, without some of the tougher stuff. And if you decide to let younger kids play, we suggest playing along with them or keeping their game in a common space where you can supervise.
6. Is Minecraft free to play? Minecraft isn't free. You may see ads for free Minecraft downloads on the internet, but they're scams. The computer versions of Minecraft cost around $30. Console versions vary in price. Minecraft also has in-game purchases for game accessories such as skins (aka clothing), textures (to change objects' appearance to, say, bricks), and worlds created by other players. You can set up an account in the Minecraft Marketplace and use Minecoins to buy add-on items. Though these purchases help you personalize your world -- and look cool -- they don't have the same sought-after demand of items in other games, such as Fortnite, whose exclusive releases add competition and even highlight socioeconomic differences among players. If you just want to test out Minecraft to see whether it's right for your kid, you can download a free Minecraft trial that gives you five sessions.
7. Is Minecraft violent? Minecraft can be violent -- but it doesn't have to be. Creative mode, for example, has no violence -- you'll encounter hostile mobs, but they don't attack. On the higher difficulty levels, you'll need to fend off -- and sometimes kill -- various scary creatures, including the infamous Ender Dragon. If kids play multiplayer, other players can be aggressive and set traps for your character that you have to fight your way out of. There's a version of the game you can play in "hardcore" mode, which ruthlessly eliminates players who die, instead of allowing them to re-spawn, as on easier levels. But overall, the blocky graphics make the visual experience mild and not at all realistic.
8. Can you chat with strangers in Minecraft? If you're playing a multiplayer game, you can text-chat with people you don't know. But you can hide the chat window if you don't want to see messages or interact. To minimize contact with strangers, you can join a server organized by someone you know or set up your own. Players can also play "local" games with people in their homes. Kids can also download a chatting app such as Discord and voice- or video-chat while playing Minecraft.
9. Are there predators on Minecraft? There's always the possibility that players can run into predators on some servers, especially if the moderation is lax. It's safest to play on a well-known, established server rather than joining one at random. Minecraft allows you to mute and block players and report them for inappropriate behavior. Review all of the game's settings with your kid if they're playing multiplayer, and learn more about talking to your kid about online predators.
10. Is Minecraft educational? Games like Minecraft that allow for exploration and creative expression -- instead of imposing a rigid structure -- can be good for learning because they stimulate critical thinking, problem-solving, and systems thinking (learning how things work together). Minecraft's focus on building can reinforce geometry concepts, as it strengthens players' logic skills, creativity, and even collaboration. But the educational value of any piece of media has a lot to do with who's guiding the learning. To boost any skills your kid may be gleaning from Minecraft, you can ask questions about their experiences as they're playing, such as, "Why did you build that?," "How did you make that?," and "How do you feel when you make a cool structure?" Minecraft offers an education edition that offers downloadable lesson plans and other educational resources for using Minecraft in the classroom.
11. Could my kid get addicted to Minecraft? Since Minecraft doesn't have an end point, it can be incredibly compelling. But even though some kids have a really hard time tearing themselves away from certain games -- and some say they feel "addicted" to them -- that's probably due to other factors such as what's going on in their lives rather than a true dependency. During the coronavirus pandemic, for example, Minecraft saw big increases in new players and multiplayer sessions. With all media, it's important to help your kid learn to self-regulate, since you won't always be around to cut them off. Start by having a conversation about all their daily duties and figure out how much game time fits in. Create a calendar, have them set a timer, and reward them for sticking to the time limits. If you've tried this and want more control over their screen time, consider installing a parental-control program that lets you set daily screen limits for different programs.
1. What is Roblox? Roblox is an online gaming platform where you can play games designed by other users and create and share your own games using Roblox's proprietary game-developing tool, Roblox Studio. Once you sign up, you can play an infinite number of games, build and share creations, and chat with other users -- all for free. Some of the most popular games include Adopt Me!, MeepCity, and Work at a Pizza Place, which all boast billions of user visits. If your kids are serious about Roblox, they'll need Robux, and they'll probably want to subscribe to Roblox Premium, which provides additional features for a membership fee.
2. How does Roblox work? Roblox offers two equally compelling modes: playing games and creating them. After registering, you have unrestricted access to both modes (however, most kids are just there to play). You can choose from a never-ending and continually evolving supply of creative and fun challenges in various categories, from shooters to murder mysteries to sports to fighting games. (Frustratingly, you can't sort games by genre, so finding ones you like is often a process of trial and error.)
Gameplay can be uneven, but good creators tend to rise to the top of the feed. Some amateur developers use Roblox as a kind of portfolio to showcase their work for potential employers. For kids who are interested in creating their own games, Roblox offers a lot of instructions, a wiki, and a helpful player community. Creators can monetize their games to earn revenue, both by charging people to play their games and by offering pay-as-you-go in-game purchases -- usually needed to get ahead in the game.
3. What age is Roblox for? Roblox doesn't specify a minimum age. Users of any age can create and join groups, chat, and interact with others. The company's commitment to the theory of "constructivism," which promotes the educational benefits of curiosity, designing, and building, is -- in theory -- appropriate for anyone who can navigate through a game. In practice, though, such an open approach can pose some risks to kids, especially younger ones. And though Roblox has some safety precautions in place, it remains a target of people with less-than-good intentions. Still, because of the learning potential Roblox offers, Common Sense Media rates it OK for users age 13+. We urge parents to help kids protect themselves by enabling privacy settings, teaching them how to recognize the methods that online predators use to win kids' trust and exploit them, and showing kids how to report bad behavior and block users.
4. What are Robux? Robux are Roblox's in-game currency. You use them for a range of things, including special outfits or animations for your avatar, unique abilities in games, weapons, and other objects. There are different ways to get Robux: You can buy them, get them as part of a Premium membership, trade for them, or have someone donate them to you. You can also earn them by charging Roblox users to play games you've created and by charging for items in your games.
5. Are there parental controls for Roblox? Roblox offers account controls that let parents restrict how kids can interact on the site and the types of games they can play. You can control whether kids can be contacted, who can message or chat with them, and a few other things in the contact settings. To enable these settings, you add your email address to your kid's account and create a PIN that prevents kids from changing the settings back. The account controls are optional; kids of any age can create an account on Roblox with no parental restrictions. On accounts of kids under 13, Roblox automatically defaults to stricter settings, but a kid could change these if there's no parent PIN.
6. Is there chat on Roblox, and is it safe? Roblox encourages users to interact through its Chat & Party function. All chat is filtered, which means inappropriate language is replaced by hashtag symbols. Chatting in accounts of kids under 13 is more heavily filtered. Roblox also employs human monitors who keep an eye out for inappropriate language and content. However, even with the monitors and filtered chat, people have figured out ways to bypass this, so knowing who you're talking to is vital for safe interaction.
7. What are "ODers" in Roblox? "OD" stands for "online dater." These are folks who join social networks, including gaming sites like Roblox, to find romantic partners. Games on Roblox can even be designed expressly for ODers. Roblox doesn't explicitly forbid ODers, and ODers aren't necessarily preying on kids. (They may be solely looking for other ODers.) Roblox's monitors look out for inappropriate conversations and content. And its community rules prohibit chat that's sexual in nature. If your kid wants to use Roblox, it's critical that you review online safety, such as how to identify potential predators, how to report and block users, and how to spot "grooming" behavior, which predators use to get their victims to trust them.
8. Are sexual predators a big problem on Roblox? There are predators on Roblox, as there are on many extremely popular social networks. Predators take advantage of Roblox's easily accessible chat to target their victims. (All you have to do is sign up for Roblox to start chatting, and the Chat & Party window is featured on nearly every page of the site.) Roblox uses human monitors as well as technology to weed out the bad guys, but they still crop up occasionally. To avoid being contacted by a predator, and to play as safely as possible, kids should enable the most restrictive contact settings (found on the Privacy Settings page). You can prevent anyone from contacting you by turning off chat entirely or limiting interactions to only friends. You should coach your kids to not chat with people they don't know (unless they can verify they're actually a friend, or a friend of a friend, in real life) and to not accept private messages (PMs) from anyone they don't know. Make sure they know never to give away personal information, trust their instincts if someone makes them uncomfortable, and never move a conversation to a different platform (a telltale predator red flag).
1. What is Fortnite? If your kids say they're playing Fortnite, they're probably talking about Battle Royale, the free-to-play multiplayer offshoot of the action-strategy game Fortnite from developer Epic Games. This ultra-popular video game blends elements of sandbox building games with fast-paced action. It offers two modes: a solo version called Save the World and the multiplayer version called Battle Royale.
2. What is Fortnite: Battle Royale? The game allows up to 100 people to participate in a match together. Players are dropped onto the game map and must compete to be the last one standing by killing every other player. During the game, players collect weapons, build safe structures, and try to avoid the Storm that damages all players outside of a safe zone. Players can also choose to play a no-build version, where you just focus on shooting people. Unlike the Save the World version, there aren't any zombies to kill, which makes it a less scary version to play. However, players can buy items to make themselves look like a zombie or another creepy character.
3. What is Save the World? Save the World is the traditional solo campaign in the game Fortnite. Unlike in Battle Royale, where players compete against each other, players in the Save the World mode are survivors of an apocalyptic storm where the few remaining humans must band together to defeat creepy zombie-like creatures called husks.
4. Why is my kid so interested in playing Fortnite? Kids love Fortnite for lots of reasons. One is that it combines two other genres that are big winners with young gamers. Another is that it has a more cartoonish look than some other more gory video games, so younger gamers are drawn to it.
Kids can play with friends in Duos, Trios, and Teams, creating a more social element. And popular gamers like play the game on streaming sites like YouTube and Twitch. Plus, in the case of the Battle Royale mode, it's free (although it does have in-app purchases—more on that below).
5. Is Fortnite appropriate for kids? For some parents, the cartoonish, bloodless style of the action in Fortnite makes the violence less problematic than the aggressive gore in other popular shooter games. But the game's online chat feature—especially in Battle Royale mode—could expose younger players to offensive language or mature content from random strangers. Common Sense doesn't recommend games with open chat for kids under 13, but with the right controls and parental guidance, this can be a tween-friendly alternative to violent first-person shooters.
6. Is Fortnite too violent for kids? Fortnite: Battle Royale is loaded with violence, but it's all cartoonish, rather than bloody or gory. Since the object is to be the last one standing, you'll constantly shoot other players and dodge fatal storms. However, there's no blood; defeated enemies simply vanish. Those seeking a less violent—and more social—play experience can find it in the weapon-free Party Royale section, which you choose when you log in for a session. Party Royale has no killing and dying. Instead, the environment is more conducive to exploring environments while chit-chatting with friends and other players.
7. What age should kids be to play Fortnite? Common Sense recommends Fortnite for teens 13 and up, primarily because of the open chat and action violence.
8. What platforms can you play Fortnite on? You can play Fortnite on the latest game consoles (PlayStation, Xbox, and Switch), computers (Mac and Windows), and Android mobile devices. The one place you can't play it is on iPhones, since Epic Games launched a very public battle against the Apple App Store over the way Apple collects in-app purchase fees—money Epic relies on, as it offers Fortnite: Battle Royale for free.
Users need an internet connection to play. Players can play "cross-platform," which means, for example, that a Windows player can be on a team with a console player. Gamers can also create an account on any device and carry over their progress in a game to another system. For example, you could start on a cellphone, then pick up a game on a computer or console later in the day and continue where you left off.
9. How is Fortnite related to Twitch? Some kids aren't only playing Fortnite—they're watching other people, including celebrities like Drake, play the game on Twitch. Twitch is a social media platform for gamers where they can livestream themselves playing popular video games, including Fortnite. Livestreaming can be unpredictable, so make sure to check out which gamers kids are watching, and if kids say they want to livestream themselves, carefully consider the risks.
10. Can players chat with each other in Fortnite: Battle Royale? Live, unmoderated chat is possible between users in the console and PC versions of Fortnite: Battle Royale. Options include voice chat and on-screen text chat. This exposes players to random strangers and the likelihood of profanity.
11. How do you turn off voice chat in Fortnite: Battle Royale? Open the Settings menu in the top right of the main Fortnite page by selecting the three bars, then the cog icon. Choose the Audio tab at the top of the screen. From there, you can adjust several audio features, including voice chat. Turn the setting from on to off by tapping the arrows.
12. How do I manage screen time for my kids when they're playing Fortnite? When each match only takes 20 minutes, it's easy to fall into the trap of "just one more" ... sort of like how you end up binge-watching an entire season of Stranger Things. But you can take advantage of the quick matches by using them as a natural stopping point in gameplay. Some kids benefit from using a timer, limiting themselves to a certain number of matches per day, or using one of these tips for finding a balance between gaming and other activities.
1. What is Omegle? Omegle is a chat website which promises to help you “Talk to strangers!”. You don’t need an app to use Omegle on your phone or tablet. According to the Omegle website home page: “Omegle is a great way to meet new friends. When you use Omegle, we pick someone else at random and let you talk one-on-one. To help you stay safe, chats are anonymous unless you tell someone who you are (not suggested!), and you can stop a chat at any time. Predators have been known to use Omegle, so please be careful.” That last sentence says it all….
2. How does Omegle work? You just start chatting with strangers by putting in a topic and clicking either Text or Video. That will take you to a new screen where you start chatting. The website will then connect you with a stranger to start talking straight away.
3. Why are young people using it? Young people have told us that the interest in Omegle could be because it connects strangers online, meaning that you never know who you will end up talking to. Sometimes people can have meaningful conversations about important topics, sometimes it might be jokey or even flirty. It also allows opportunities to talk with people from other countries, especially during lockdown when travel and face-to-face contact is limited.
Most recently, Omegle has been talked about and highlighted through the video sharing app, TikTok. TikTok users have recorded conversations happening on Omegle and then shared these widely on TikTok. This has raised the profile of Omegle with new users who may not have been aware of it previously.
Some influencers or TikTok users with large followings have used Omegle to interact more directly with their fans. They tell their followers that they will be present on Omegle at a certain time and may even encourage their fans to use the service at the same time, giving them a chance of randomly being paired for a chat.
Although young people have told us about these interesting sides of Omegle, they have also told us about the risks, most notably about the dangers around talking to strangers and the prevalence of adult content, particularly pornographic material. For some children and young people, the risk of not knowing what content you will see is part of the attraction of going on sites such as Omegle.
4. What do I need to know?
Contact with strangers Omegle is specifically designed to encourage users to talk to strangers, by either using the website’s chat function or video calling within Omegle. Whilst chat is initially anonymous, many users choose to share personal information including names, ages, locations, email addresses, phone numbers or social media handles.
Explicit and adult content Adult content is prevalent on Omegle, including pornographic content and adult language. Users have no control over what they may see or hear when matched up with a stranger. Some people use Omegle with the intention of engaging in sexually explicit conversations or participating in live sex acts, including with children and young people.
5. What age should you be to use Omegle? Omegle is only intended for use by young people aged 13 years or older, but does not ask users to verify their age. Additionally, Omegle states that for young people under the age of 18, it should only be used “with a parent/guardian’s permission”. However, users are not asked to give their age before they start using the service.
6. What is your advice on Omegle? Have an open and honest conversation with your child. The best way to support your child with life online is maintaining an open and honest dialogue about their online interests, including favourite apps and games. By showing you’re interested, children are also more likely to feel comfortable coming to you if there’s an issue. Our Parents and Carers Toolkit includes resources to help talk about life online.
Avoid talking about Omegle by name, unless mentioned by your child. Not all young people are interested in or using Omegle. By asking your child specifically about this website and no others, you may draw their attention to something they were not already aware of. Instead, we would advise to talk generally about life online and only discuss Omegle specifically if your child mentions it or you think they are using it.
If they do talk about Omegle, these further points may be of help:
Consider whether your child is ready to navigate the risks presented Omegle. Whilst the risks and harms present on Omegle are not unique to this site and exist elsewhere on other platforms, the lack of safety settings on Omegle can make it more difficult to manage. Without adequate safety tools, we do not advise that this service is suitable for children of any age. You may decide to use parental controls to limit access to the website, especially for younger children.
Explain the risks simply and without judgement We often hear from young people that when parents confiscate technology or ban specific apps and sites without explanation, this can be frustrating. It may also lead to your child trying to find ways around a ban and doing so in secret. If you are uncomfortable with your child using Omegle, be honest and specific about your concerns so they understand your decision.
Look for alternatives There are many other fun and exciting opportunities for young people to enjoy online, without the same level of risk as Omegle. Try using a site like the Family Video Game Database or Common Sense Media to look for age-appropriate alternatives to share with your child.
1. What is Twitch? Founded in 2011, Twitch is a live streaming platform where millions of users can watch live streams or pre-recorded video gameplay. Other available channels users can watch include music, sports, esports, and food. Geared towards the gaming community, it also offers gaming news, product announcements, events, and a community of fans who really love games. Additionally, Twitch broadcasts lucrative esports tournaments, which offer large sums of prize money to professional players. Twitch is available on many platforms, (computer, gaming console, and tablets, mobile devices via a desktop browser and the app) but the official website is www.twitch.tv.
2. What is needed to use Twitch?
An Internet-enabled device (computer, laptop, TV, phone or tablet)
A Twitch account
Be at least 13 years old to use the platform (although there is no age verification on sign-up)
3. How does Twitch work? A user can set up a Twitch account to watch their favorite streaming channels or can set up their own channel.
As a viewer, you can – watch live gameplay or archived videos by browsing various categories. A Twitch broadcast or stream often includes a video with an audio commentary from the player and the video of the game itself.
You will also see a live chat option where at times the streamer can respond, but you can still talk to others including sending private messages. Sometimes the streamers respond to the chats out loud in the video.
To gain the full experience (including joining in live chat) you will need to sign up for the free membership where you will get your own user page (called a channel). Viewers can either follow their favourite streamer for free or subscribe to their channel for a fee – from $4.99 a month.
As a streamer you can – create a channel and broadcast live gameplay, esports, music, or IRL (in real life) content. IRL is designed for users to share glimpses into their day-to-day life. Streamers can also earn money from the platform.
Good to know: Although an account is not required to use the desktop version (like YouTube and TikTok platforms), by creating a free account, a user can get full access to the features of the platform.
4. Why is Twitch so popular? The gaming community – The gaming community on Twitch is the go-to place for gamers and gaming enthusiasts. The streaming of gameplay offers live commentary which creates a sense of belonging among the gamers. Also, a lot of young people use Twitch not only to watch specific gamers but because they like the actual gamer; many popular music artists have turned to Twitch to make money during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Lucrative money earner – Most streamers broadcast as a hobby, but some have made successful careers from it. Because Twitch was acquired by Amazon in 2014, it is integrated with Amazon Prime and allows streamers to make money by offering in-stream links through which viewers can purchase the games being played. Other ways streamers can earn money is through ads, subscriptions, and donations.
Reviews of popular games – The biggest games usually streamed on Twitch are popular ones such as League of Legends, Fortnite, and Minecraft. Some streamers may get early access to a new game and therefore viewers may flock to Twitch to get a look in.
5. What is the age rating? According to Twitch, the minimum age rating is 13 years and a user between 13 and 18 years old should use the platform with an adult, according to the site’s terms of service. Any under 13s found to have an account will be terminated. The Apple App Store has a rating of 17+ and the Google Play Store has a ‘Teen’ rating.