Reddit: A Guide for Parents & Educators

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March 24, 2022

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This Reddit guide will help VIP members learn 

  • What is Reddit?
  • Why do your students want to use Reddit?
  • Why is it dangerous?
  • How to navigate both the app and website
  • How to keep your student safe on Reddit

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Table of Contents

Reddit claims that it is “home to thousands of communities, endless conversation, and authentic human connection” (Reddit, Inc.). The popular site can be a great source of news and information and even a fun place to connect with others about a similar interest. 

However, with limited parental controls and light website moderation, Reddit can be dangerous for teens. 

In this guide for parents and educators, learn all about Reddit, the most important aspects of how students use it, why your student wants to use it, the potential dangers, and how parents and educators can help keep kids safe online.

Parent and educator training videos

Video 1-What is Reddit

In this video: 

1-What is Reddit?

2-Subreddits-Groups

3-Voting

4-Where is Reddit Available?

Video 2-Reddit dangers

In this video: 

1-Doomscrolling

2-Child Pornography

3-Reddit Lingo

4-Parent Concerns

5-Why Do Students Want to Be On Reddit?

Video 3-How does Reddit work?

In this video: 

1-Home Screen

2-Discover Tab

3-Anonymous Browsing

4-What Can Parents Do?

5-Social Media Agreement

Video 4-Reddit safety & privacy settings on Apple & Android apps

In this video:

1-Reddit App vs. Website

2-How to Keep Your Profile Private

3-How to Turn off NSFW (Not Safe for Work)

4-How to Limit Chat and Direct Messages

5-How to turn off NSFW on Website

Video 5-Reddit safety & privacy settings on the website

In this video:

1-How to Keep Your Profile Private on the Web

2-Safety & Privacy on the Reddit Website

3-Chat & Messaging Settings on the Website

4-How Do Your Students Use Reddit?

5-Share SmartSocial.com

What is Reddit?

  • Reddit is a social media website and app with more than 52 million daily active users with a free or paid premium version (Source: WSJ)
  • Reddit is a large community with a nearly endless amount of smaller communities, or “subreddits” users can join and participate
  • Redditors (registered users) can create their own original posts, comment, and vote on other users’ posts, ask questions, give and receive answers, participate in live Talks, and even create new communities 
  • ~Users can read threads without creating an account, but must be a registered user to comment, vote, or join a community
  • Subreddits are communities dedicated to a specific topic and focus.  Users can find anything from breaking news to any random interest or hobby
  • Each subreddit has a volunteer moderator, rules, and specific voting systems
  • There are more than 2.8 million subreddits to choose from (Source: Oberlo)
  • The most popular posts (posts that received the most upvotes)  are showcased on Reddit’s front page
  • Reddit Premium is available for a monthly/annual subscription.  It allows users to browse ad-free, receive monthly coins, use premium awards, and gain access to a “Members Lounge”
  • “Followers” will be notified about posts you make to your profile and see them in their home feed
  • r/______ - designates a subreddit or community
  • u/______ - designates a username

Where is Reddit available?

Reddit lingo

Like many websites and communities, Reddit has some specific terms that describe the way their service works. Knowing these terms will help parents and teachers talk with students about how they use Reddit:

  • Upvote - A virtual thumbs up that users can utilize to show their approval for a post and help it get moved to the top of the site
  • Downvote - A virtual thumbs down which users are encouraged to use if they think the comment or post doesn’t contribute or is off-topic
  • Coins - Virtual currency that can be used to buy awards for other Redditors
  • Snoo - The alien creature often found on Reddit is the mascot and registered trademark
  • Subreddit - a community about a specific topic
  • Admin - Reddit employee who manages site issues
  • Mod - moderator, a volunteer who helps run a subreddit
  • AMA - Ask Me Anything
  • AMAA - Ask Me Almost Anything
  • AUS - Ask Us Anything
  • Bot - short for robot, and sometimes known as u/automoderator; an account that is programmed as an automation tool to help manage subreddit rules. Users can also create their own bots to execute a number of functions on Reddit (Source: Reddit)
  • CMV - Change My View
  • DAE - Does Anyone Else
  • ELI5 - Explain It Like I’m Five
  • Front Page - A personalized front page of Reddit featuring the top headlines from the user’s subscribed subreddits
  • FWP - First World Problems
  • Gild/Gilded - Giving a gold award to a post or comment
  • IANAD - I Am Not A Doctor
  • IANAL - I Am Not A Lawyer
  • IMO - In My Opinion
  • IRL - In Real Life
  • ITT - In This Thread
  • SFW - Safe For Work
  • NSFW - Not Safe For Work
  • NSFL - Not Safe For Life, explicit, offensive, and often gore
  • OOTL - Out Of The Loop
  • PM - Private Message
  • SMH - Shaking My Head
  • Sauce - Source of information
  • TIFU - Today I F***ed Up
  • TIL - Today I Learned
  • TL;DR - Too Long, Didn’t Read

Reddit  in the news

Naturally, this content has the capacity to be highly depressing. A suicide hotline is displayed in a prominent position on the front page, alongside a disclaimer. ‘Overindulging in this sub[reddit] may be detrimental to your mental health’

Time


[The] Plaintiffs’ complaint alleges in hundreds of detailed allegations that Reddit refuses to prevent, detect and remove known illegal content or ban repeat offenders who traffic in child pornography — all to Reddit’s profit…

Top Class Actions

Why should parents & educators care?

Reddit sign up example
  • When creating a user account Reddit does not ask to verify age, even though it states on the website that users must be at least 13 years old to join
  • There are no parental controls built into Reddit
  • The site promotes anonymity by only asking for an email address and username when registering for an account.  The username can be completely random.  “Anonymous profiles so you can do you. On Reddit, you (not your job, number of friends, or social status) define who you are" (Source: Google Play)
  • Non-registered users can still search and view posts in communities without signing up, but cannot join communities or subreddits
  • Explicit material and pornography are allowed and not difficult to find, but according to Reddit, it is supposed to be tagged with NSFW (not safe for work) 
  • There are many subreddits that promote doomscrolling
  • Users can purchase “coins” inside the app through Apple or Google Play to award posts and comments
  • Users can private or group chat with other users
  • Each subreddit is monitored by a volunteer Moderator 
  • Reddit Talk is a pilot program in which Redditors can participate in live audio only talks within communities.  Currently, the moderator is the only one who can start a Talk and is responsible for allowing others to speak and has the ability to mute a speaker.  Listeners can interact in the talk by posting emojis or leaving comments

Why do students want to be on Reddit?

  • Reddit used to claim to be “the front page of the internet” and students like to turn to Reddit to find out the latest, trending topics -Reddit results often appear high in searches, so students may be using Reddit more than they realize
  • Students see it as a fun place to connect with others with similar interests
  • Reddit is a wealth of information - users can find a subreddit on pretty much any topic
  • It can be a great place to ask questions and get advice anonymously
  • Memes and funny videos relating to students’ interests or ideas can be fun to find and share

How does the Reddit app work? A guide for parents

Home Screen

Example of a Reddit Home Screen
  • When users login or open up the Reddit app on their device, the Home Screen appears and automatically displays the top posts in the communities or subreddits that the user follows
  • The “Popular” tab will display the top trending posts across Reddit
  • Posts under the “Home” and “Popular” tabs on the app can be sorted by different filters including “Controversial”
  • The “News” tab will display the top news stories on the site.  News can be filtered  by multiple different categories including: US/World, Politics, Tech, Science, Sports, Gaming, and Entertainment
  • News can be personalized by specific topic by tapping the two lines next to the date

Discover Tab

The new feature curates pictures, GIFs, and videos in a scrollable grid to help Reddit users find new content and communities that they may be interested in, in a way that’s reminiscent of Instagram’s explore page or Pinterest.

The Verge

Example of Reddit Discover screen
  • Reddit recently launched an easier (and more addictive) way to scroll through top posts and topics through the Reddit app
  • Tapping on the 2nd icon button (Discover Tab) on the bottom allows users to scroll through pictures from popular subreddits and find new communities to join
  • Users can narrow down their browsing by selecting one of the different categories listed at the top

Post Tab

  • The plus sign (located at the bottom of the screen on the app and the top of the screen on the website) is the “Post” tab
  • Users choose a community that they want to contribute to and then post text, links, images, videos, or polls
Example of Reddit Post Tab


Anonymous Browsing

Anonymous browsing warning
  • Reddit’s solution for keeping your activity incognito on the app is the “Anonymous Browsing” feature
  • Browsing or search history will not be saved to your Reddit account
  • User activity while “anonymous”  won’t be used to personalize recommendations or notifications
  • Features that are tied to the account will not be available such as:  home feed, joining communities, posting, commenting, upvoting or downvoting, chat and messaging, broadcasting on RPAN, awarding, or MOD tools

What can parents do?

  • Create your own Reddit user account and spend some time on the app or website to see how it works
  • ~Ask your students to teach you how they use it
  • Set up the limited settings to make the account as private as possible and limit contact with strangers (See detailed directions below)
  • Use our guides to add screen time limits and/or restrict downloading the app with tutorials for  Apple Screentime, Digital Wellbeing(for Androids), and Google Play 
  • Make sure that “Show NSFW” content is turned off (See detailed directions below)
  • If your student is abusing their privilege to use Reddit, consider blocking the site on your internet browser or on your router

The Reddit app on your student’s Apple or Android device operates a bit differently than the Reddit website.  We’ve listed directions below on how to make your student as safe as possible in each of these settings.

How to keep your student safe on the Reddit app

Learn how to keep your profile private

On Apple:

  • Tap on your avatar (Upper right corner on Apple, upper left on Android)
My Profile example
  • Tap “My Profile”
  • Tap “Edit”
  • Scroll down and slide “Content visibility” to grey (off) to prevent the profile from being discovered in /users and to prevent posts from appearing in r/all
  • Slide “Show active communities” to grey (off) to keep your subscribed communities private in your profile
  • Tap “Save” at the top

How to turn off NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content

Reddit offers very limited parental controls for the app on Apple and Android devices. The NSFW setting defaults as turned off when a new account is created, but can easily be turned on by your student.  This feature is not perfect either as the filter is dependent on the poster, or Reddit users, tagging the message with NSFW. Inappropriate material can still be viewed however, many posts use the tag, so the filter should greatly reduce the amount of explicit material your student sees. 

Apple 

How to turn off NSFW on Apple device
  • Tap on your avatar in the upper right corner
  • Tap “Settings” at the bottom
  • Tap the arrow to the right of “Language”
  • Tap “Open Settings” - this will open up the iOS settings for Reddit
  • Under “Reddit Settings”, the user can select to show or blur NSFW images.  The “Show NSFW Content” default setting is off

Android

  • Tap on your avatar in the upper left
  • Tap “Settings”
  • Under the VIEW OPTIONS menu options, slide "Show NSFW content (I'm over 18)" to off, which automatically grey's out and turns off "Blur NSFW images: note, the default appears to have been off from the start

How to limit chat and direct messages

How to change who can follow you on Reddit
  • Tap on your avatar
  • Tap “Settings” 
  • Tap arrow to the right of the username (look for “Account settings for yourname” on Android)
  • Scroll down to “BLOCKING AND PERMISSIONS”
  • ~“Allow people to follow you” - slide this to grey (off) to prevent other users from following your account 
  • ~“Allow chat requests” - slide this to grey to prevent other users from requesting chats
  • ~“Allow direct messages” - slide this to grey to prevent other users from direct messaging your account.  Administrators and moderators of any followed subreddit will always be able to direct message your account

Personalized Recommendations

How to change search results on Reddit
  • Tap on your avatar, tap  “Settings”
  • Tap the arrow to the right of the username (look for “Account settings for yourname” on Android)
  • Scroll down to “PERSONALIZED RECOMMENDATIONS”
  • ~“Show up in search results” - slide to grey to prevent your student’s profile from appearing in search engine results
  • ~“Personalize recommendations based on your general location” - slide to grey to prevent Reddit from using your student’s city, state, or country (based on IP address) to recommend posts and communities

How to keep your student safe on the Reddit website

How to turn off NSFW content

  • There are several ways to find the user settings on the website, but the easiest way is to click on the avatar and then click on the gear icon
  • “User settings” will be open and click the “Feed Settings” tab
  • “Adult content” is the top option -  Make sure that the blue button to the right is turned to grey (off) to prevent any NSWF material from being displayed
  • “Autoplay media” can be turned off to prevent videos and gifs from being automatically played in the viewport - slide button to grey to turn off
Example of how to turn off adult content and autoplay media on Reddit

How to keep your profile private

  • From “User settings,” click the “Profile” tab
  • Scroll down to the bottom to adjust settings
  • ~“Allow people to follow you” - this setting will automatically be on, if you don’t want other users to follow your student then slide this to off (grey)
  • ~“Content visibility” - this allows your posts to appear in r/all (which is an all-encompassing subreddit for all users to view) and allows your profile to be discoverable in /users (how to search for other users).  To turn off this feature, slide the button to grey (off)
  • ~“Active in communities visibility” - slide to off to prevent active communities to be listed  on student’s profile
  • Click on the “Safety & Privacy” tab
  • ~“Collapse potentially disruptive comments” - users can determine what level of rude or disrespectful comments they want to view by adjusting the sensitivity level which will collapse certain comments.  “Low” will collapse the least amount of comments and “High” will collapse the most
  • ~“Show up in search results” - double-check that your student’s profile will be hidden in Google search results by keeping this button slid to grey (off)
  • ~“Personalize recommendations based on your general location” - slide to grey(off) to prevent Reddit from using your city, state, or country (based on your IP) to recommend better posts and communities
Example of how to change content visibility and who can follow you on Reddit

How to limit chat and direct messages

  • Click your avatar and then click on the gear icon
  • “User settings” will be open and click the “Chat & Messaging” tab
  • “Who can send you chat requests” - choose from the drop-down menu to select from “everybody”, “accounts older than 30 days”, or “nobody”
  • “Who can send you private messages” - choose from the drop-down menu but note that Reddit admins and moderators from subscribed communities can always message you
  • “Approved Users” - add usernames of users that are allowed to message with your student 

Example of how to limit chat and direct messages on Reddit

What students & parents need to know

  • Although the minimum age to join Reddit is 13, the Apple app store and the Google Play store both rate this app as Mature or 17+
  • Read through the Reddiquite (a lengthy set of rules created by Reddit for its users) to help you and your student understand how best to interact within each Reddit community.  A few examples are listed below: (source: Reddit)
  • ~Remember the human. When you communicate online, all you see is a computer screen. When talking to someone you might want to ask yourself "Would I say it to the person's face?" or "Would I get jumped if I said this to a buddy?"
  • ~Adhere to the same standards of behavior online that you follow in real life.
  • ~Posts containing explicit material such as nudity, horrible injury, etc, add NSFW (Not Safe For Work) for nudity, and tag. However, if something IS safe for work, but has a risqué title, tag as SFW (Safe for Work). Additionally, use your best judgment when adding these tags, in order for everything to go swimmingly.
  • ~Don’t: Engage in illegal activity

Additional resources for families

Listen to MomTalk podcast while Beth and Andrea discuss Reddit

Conclusion

With 20% of Reddit users falling into the 10-19 age group (Source: Statista), it’s important for parents to understand how and why students want to use the social media site.  Although it can be a fun and interesting place to connect with others and find answers to questions, Reddit can quickly turn dangerous and toxic for students.


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