How to Use Reddit: A Parent’s Guide
Reddit is an aggregation of communities of like-minded users that share information of interest. Reddit places very few restrictions on content. Explicit, hateful, and disturbing content is, therefore, rampant. Parents can protect their teens by learning how to use the platform and monitoring their teens’ use.
Reddit is a social news aggregator often referred to as “the front page of the internet.” The platform is a combination of multiple user-created communities known as subreddits.
Each community revolves around a subject chosen by the user that started the community. Other Reddit users, also known as Redditors, can search for communities by topic.
The most popular posts from the communities you have joined appear on your home page, which Reddit calls your front page. Reddit users can control the types of posts that appear on their front page. The popularity of content is determined by the number of upvotes and downvotes the content receives.
What is Reddit used for?
Reddit was established for adults with the primary purpose of sharing content with like-minded users.
Reddit was founded in 2005 and is based in San Francisco, California. According to Statista, Reddit received 1.7 billion visits worldwide in May 2022 alone. Reddit has 430 million monthly active users. The majority of users are between 18 and 29, and 63.8 percent are male. Reddit is becoming increasingly popular with teens.
How old does a child have to be to use Reddit?
Reddit requires users to be 13 years of age or older, but there is no age verification process. Reddit is not for young users. The Reddit app is rated for users 17 and older in the App Store.
Is Reddit safe for kids?
Reddit has numerous safe communities that consist only of good people with good intentions. However, Reddit is moderated by volunteers. Sexually explicit content, foul language, and other forms of disturbing content are widely disseminated on Reddit.
Reddit bills itself as a platform that encourages free speech with limited rules about the forms of content that are not allowed. Even when banned or illegal content is posted, Reddit is notoriously slow about addressing it, according to a Time report.
Although Reddit has established an anti-harassment policy and bans subreddits specifically set up for these purposes, hate speech is still rampant on Reddit and includes:
Volunteer moderators have the ability to delete some of this content, but when reporting some blatantly racist content, Reddit denies that its policies have been violated and allows it to remain.
Adult content is rampant on Reddit. Even when the community requires users to be 18 or older, there is no verification process. Teens can easily lie about their age and access the content. Reddit CEO Steve Huffman told Business Insider India that he has no plans to ban pornography on Reddit.
Exploitative Sexual Content
In March 2022, Reddit began prohibiting sexually explicit photos that are posted without the consent of the individuals depicted, but this has not solved the issue. According to the National Center on Sexual Exploitation (NCOSE), Reddit is filled with communities that exploit women and children and seek to normalize incest.
Image-Based Sexual Abuse
Image-based sexual abuse is the publicizing of sexually explicit images without the subject’s consent. This type of sexual violence can occur in the following forms:
- Revenge porn – Posting multiple nude photos without consent
- Deepfake pornography – Superimposing someone’s face into pornography without their consent
- Upskirting – Non-consensual recording or photography of intimate images without consent
- Spycams – The recording of private moments in public places such as locker rooms and restrooms
According to NCOSE, Reddit allows communities dedicated to sharing these types of images to exist on their site without repercussions.
Child sexual abuse material is rampant on Reddit despite its illegality, and even when victims are identified and the perpetrators are prosecuted, getting these images removed is near impossible. NCOSE assisted a survivor of such abuse and found 28 unique website addresses that depicted this survivor’s abuse.
NCOSE sent a takedown request to multiple departments within Reddit. After several months, Reddit notified NCOSE that they would have to contact yet another department. Fourteen months after contacting that department, NCOSE has not received confirmation that the illegal material has been removed.
NCOSE asserts that Reddit has the ability to prevent illegal, exploitative sexual content on its platform but chooses not to.
Human Trafficking Reddit Communities
NCOSE also reported that some subreddits advertise prostitution, a form of human trafficking. A class action lawsuit against Reddit that alleges Reddit has become a haven for pedophiles is currently underway. In this case, a 16-year-old girl was exploited. Reddit was slow to remove the images and failed to take action against the man who posted them.
Trolls are users that post inflammatory comments for the sole purpose of creating conflict. This can quickly turn into harassment or cyberbullying. Like all social media platforms, cyberbullying is a real threat on Reddit, and there are no safeguards in place to mitigate it when it occurs.
The Reddit platform allows users to connect via private messaging and group chats. This can be risky for young people because it creates a means by which pedophiles and human traffickers can groom young people.
Does Reddit have an addictive algorithm?
Reddit may have some addictive features for susceptible users. The ability to earn Karma points and the feedback of upvotes, downvotes, and comments could serve as social rewards that impact the brain’s reward center.
However, the primary concern with Reddit is the types of content young people may be exposed to. If teens do become addicted to Reddit, this could have significant mental health ramifications because Reddit is home to much more disturbing content than would be permitted on other social media sites.
Reddit Parental Controls
Reddit does not provide controls that allow parents to monitor activity from a parent account. The only way to monitor your teen’s activity is by logging into their account. Reddit does provide settings that can block some objectionable content. You can also view your child’s latest activity through their front page.
The most important parental control is open, honest communication and fostering a relationship of trust and openness. Talk to your child before opening an account and on a regular basis after the fact about the following:
- How to respond to cyberbullying
- A plan for safety if they experience thoughts of self-harm
- A healthy view of sexuality and the downsides of explicit content
- Stranger danger on the internet and how to spot grooming behavior
Reddit Safety Settings
The following practices can help teen users browse Reddit safely:
- Select a username that does not reveal personal identifying information, including gender.
- In account settings, set gender to “Prefer Not to Say.”
- Refer to interests in the About section without revealing anything personal.
- Make sure your child’s age is entered correctly. This will prevent the most objectionable content from being served.
- Turn adult content off in feed settings.
- In the profile section, turn NSFW (not safe for work) off.
- Use a gender-neutral avatar and not a personal photo.
- The more private your profile, the safer it is. Turn off options to allow followers, to allow followers content visibility, or to allow users to view the communities in which you are active.
- In the feed settings, set to Safe Browsing Mode (which is automatic if adult content is turned off).
- Turn off the option to allow your profile to display in Google search results.
- In the chat and messaging settings, select “Nobody” under “Who can send you chat requests?” and “Who can send you private messages?”
- If your teen turns off “Enable Home Feed Recommendations” under the feed settings, Reddit will not suggest new communities, which could prevent your teen from receiving disturbing content recommendations.
Users can also block users that are trolls or otherwise objectionable in the Safety and Privacy tab of the user settings. Although it is unlikely Reddit will respond, if your teen is harmed by Reddit, all offending posts and communities should be reported to Reddit.
In order to properly monitor your child’s account, you will need to understand how to use Reddit yourself.
How to Use Reddit
Setting up your own account and familiarizing yourself with Reddit will provide an opportunity to understand the platform, monitor your child, and even join some positive communities with your child. Getting started requires the following steps:
- Set up an account. You will need a unique username, email address, and password. Reddit is an anonymous community. Real names are typically not used as usernames.
- Choose the types of content you are interested in. Each piece of content you select is a subreddit you will be subscribed to.
- Confirm your email to activate your account.
- When you are logged into your account, your front page will display the most popular posts from the subreddits you subscribed to while setting up your account.
- If you dislike the content you receive, you can unsubscribe from it. Reddit will display some content you are not subscribed to with a Join button.
You can find new communities (subreddits) through the following methods:
- Select one of the following in the Search bar: r/findareddit, r/newreddits, r/popular, and r/all.
- Check the Discover feed on the mobile app, which is the compass icon next to the home icon.
If you are unable to find a specific community you are looking for, you can easily start a new one. Reddit has more than 130,000 communities about virtually every topic that exists. If you can think of it, there is probably a Reddit community about it.
- Karma Points – Points earned and publicly displayed when you post, comment, or otherwise contribute to the Reddit community; downvotes can reduce karma points
- Cake Day – Reddit’s term for the anniversary of the date you established your Reddit account
- Snoo – The name of Reddit’s character icon
Popular Reddit Acronyms
Most of the acronyms that appear in Reddit posts are also used on other social media platforms. Below is a list of common acronyms used on Reddit:
- AMA – Ask Me Anything
- NSFW – Not Safe for Work
- NSFL – Not Safe for Life
- TL;DR – Too Long, Didn’t Read
- EL15 – Explain Like I’m 5
- TIL – Today I Learned
- FTFY – Fixed That for You
- DAE – Does Anyone Else
- CMV – Change My View
How is Reddit different from other social media platforms?
While most social media platforms focus on people, Reddit primarily focuses on communities. Successful posts on Reddit are relevant and topical and generate interest in the community.
Most popular social media platforms encourage users to share selfies, vacation photos, memes, and updates about their activities. The purpose is to create an online identity. For example, Instagram is an image-based social media platform where users often attempt to create an idealized version of themselves.
Reddit focuses on building up communities rather than individuals. While glorified selfies and images of vacation spots may impress users on Snapchat and Instagram, they are likely to be downvoted on Reddit unless they are relevant to the topic of the community. The most similar social media platform to Reddit is Discord.
What to Do if Your Teen is Harmed on Reddit
If the use of Reddit has harmed your teen, you can count on the passionate attorneys at the Social Media Victims Law Center to take up your cause and fight vigorously to hold Reddit accountable. Contact us today for a free consultation.
Matthew P. Bergman