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Cayman Parent | Articles | Community | App Safety for Kids

App Safety for Kids

Social media has become one of the main ways people connect and communicate with each other. For teens and tweens, social media is a great way to interact with their peers, discover new interests and foster creativity, but it also poses serious safety risks. To tip the scales in favour of positive online experiences and appropriate interactions, parents must take a proactive approach to understanding their children’s online behaviour.


An online platform owned by Google where anyone can upload and watch video content. A wide variety of content is uploaded and billions of people watch, rate and comment on it.



  • Inappropriate content is easy to access: Any child with a Gmail account can sign into YouTube and access videos. Some content is flagged ‘age-restricted’, but the platform relies on self-verification, meaning that kids can get around the rules by using a fake date of birth.
  • YouTube suggests related content: YouTube will often autoplay videos based on your child’s viewing habits. The aim is to show related content, but it may not always be age-appropriate.
  • ‘Challenge videos’ can go too far: Challenge videos refer to a stunt you’re encouraged to recreate and film. Some are dangerous and even life threatening, such as the Bird Box Challenge.


  • Apply ‘Restricted Mode’: Restricted mode helps to hide any mature or unpleasant videos from your children. It uses YouTube’s own automated system and looks at what other users flag as inappropriate content.
  • Create a ‘family’ Google account: This will allow you to monitor exactly what your child is watching, uploading and sharing.
  • Get to know popular channels: It’s good to know which channels are most popular with your children. Some of the most popular channels right now are: PewDiePie, Zoella, KSI, JennaMarbles, Smosh, ThatcherJoe & Casper Lee.



Instagram is a hugely popular photo and video-sharing app with over a billion users worldwide. Images can be transformed with filters to edit the shot before sharing. Anyone with an account can see another’s ‘gallery’ if their account is not private.



  • Direct messaging: Direct messages allow users to share posts, images, videos, voice messages and calls between each other privately. If the person is not on your child’s friends list, the message will still be sent to their inbox but the user has to accept their request to see the message.
  • Damage to confidence, body image & mental health: Using filters on photos on Instagram can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy for children. Judging themselves against other users on the app might threaten their confidence or self-worth.
  • Hijacked hashtags: Hashtags connect content so you can see related content from multiple users. One person may use a seemingly innocent hashtag with one thing in mind, and before you know it hundreds of people could be using the same hashtag for something inappropriate.


  • Restrict direct messages: If your child receives a message from somebody they do not know, encourage them not to accept their message request and ‘block’ this person; this is the only way to stop them messaging your child again.
  • Look out for #ADS: Influencers must clearly state that they have been paid for their posts, for example by using a hashtag like #ad or #sponsored. Teach your child to look out for the signs of a paid post/advert and discuss that not everything they see from celebrities is their personal choice or opinion.
  • Use a private account: A private account means you have to accept a request from somebody who wants to follow you and only people you approve will see your posts and videos.



TikTok is a social media app that allows users to create and share 60 second videos. Popular video trends include funny sketches and lip-synch style videos with options to add special effects. It is very popular with under 16s and was the most downloaded app in 2019 and 2020.


Cyberbullying is the act of sending threatening or taunting messages, pictures, or videos with the aim of hurting the receiver. TikTok encourages users to comment and share videos which can quickly have negative consequences if someone’s intention is malicious.

Connecting with strangers:
TikTok accounts are automatically set to ‘public’ when first created, meaning your child’s account and videos can be accessed and viewed by anyone in the world.

Inappropriate content:
There are instances of users sharing and creating inappropriate content on the app,
including sexually explicit, fantasy violence, references to drug use etc.


Safety Centre:
You are able to delete, block and report unwanted community interactions on the app. As a parent, make sure you are continually monitoring and helping manage your child’s account settings to ensure only positive experiences are had on TikTok.

Profile privacy:
Make sure your child’s account is set to ‘private’ under Privacy and Settings. This ensures that only approved followers can interact with your child’s account and videos.

Family Pairing:
TikTok’s Family Pairing feature allows parents to link to their children’s TikTok account and limit the appearance of content that may not be age appropriate.



Snapchat is a photo sharing app for phones and tablets. It allows users to share images, videos and chat with friends through voice calls or text messages. Users can share images and videos directly to specific friends, or through a ‘story’ shared with their entire friend list.


  • Sexting: While Snapchat’s gimmick is that all photos, videos and text disappear eventually, users can still screenshot or save anything they have received. Users may forget this and send a compromising image or message to somebody who they think they trust. Once a photo/video has been screenshotted or recorded, this can open the door to blackmailing or cyberbullying.
  • Damage to confidence: Snapchat’s selection of filters and lenses are a popular way to enhance selfies. Using the ‘beautify’ filters on photos can set unrealistic expectations and create feelings of inadequacy.
  • Addictive snap streaks: ‘Snap streaks’ are gained when snaps have been sent back and forth consecutively between friends. Snapchat then rewards users who have achieved high snap streaks by gifting emojis. Children invest time into making their streaks as long as possible, putting pressure on themselves and their friendships.


  • Discuss the risks of sexting: Talk to your children about the consequences of sexting and make sure that they are aware of the risks. Ensure your child knows that ‘Snaps’ can be screenshotted and the message, image or video can be shared further without their knowledge or permission.
  • Turn off ‘quick add’: ‘Quick add’ helps friends find each other on the app based on mutual friends or if their number is in their phone book. This feature can open up their profile to strangers. Your child can switch this feature off in settings.
  • Restrict story views: Your child can add videos and images to their ‘story’ throughout the day, which will last for 24 hours. By default, anyone in a user’s friends list can see their story. Check in the privacy settings that this has not been changed. The options to choose from are ‘My Friends’, ‘Everyone’ or ‘Custom’; we suggest that it is set to ‘My Friends’.



The above content is courtesy of National Online Safety, award-winning specialists in digital online safety training for schools and parents, working internationally towards a safer online world for children.

For more advice on cyberbullying click here.

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Dr. Alexandra Bodden PsyD MA MS ClinPharm

Dr. Alexandra Bodden is a licenced psychologist in both Cayman and Maryland, USA.


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