Social media platforms and apps

The rise of social media.

OK, hands up who else had a Myspace profile! For those of us who remember the first social media platforms starting up, social media was very different to how it is today.

Social media platforms and apps

The very first social media channel was born in 1997. Six Degrees let you set up a profile, connect with others and send messages. It was incredibly popular but closed in 2000. Myspace came on the scene in 2003, quickly followed by Facebook in 2004. Originally called Facemash, it started as an internal network for Harvard University in 2003. However its popularity grew rapidly, and it quickly reached one million users in its first year!

From that point, it paved the way for a multitude of other social media platforms to start popping up. Within a couple of years, we saw other sites including LinkedIn, YouTube, Reddit and WordPress start up.

Twitter joined the ranks in 2006. And in 2007, the hashtag arrived! The strict character limit and use of hashtags for trending topics made Twitter stand out from its competitors. After that, we welcomed Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat and Twitch. Lots of big things happened to social media over the next few years (for example the rise and fall of Google+, Facebook reaching a whopping one billion users in 2012, then subsequently buying Instagram!). During this time we were introduced to things such as influencers, live-streaming and stories.

TikTok was created in China in 2017. But in 2019, its popularity surged through the rest of the world thanks to the viral music, dance trends and challenges that were doing the rounds. Finally (for now at least!), BeReal made an appearance in 2022, and it’s tipped to be social media’s next big thing!

How social media impacts us.

Whether you love it or hate it, for lots of us social media is a big part of our lives. What started as a way for people to interact with others, is now a form of entertainment, dating and a valuable tool for businesses across the world to connect with customers.

However it can be daunting letting children loose online! It opens up a whole range of new challenges, so it’s important we teach them how to enjoy their online freedom safely.

Revealing their personal information and locations to people online can be a big risk. Sharing sensitive photos or videos of themselves can lead them to becoming a victim of cyberbullying. Most children know not to talk to strangers, and communicating online is no different. However. talking to people they don’t know puts them at higher risk of grooming or abuse.

It’s hard regulating content online. And things like stories and live streaming are even harder to monitor. Seeing harmful or inappropriate content or receiving upsetting direct messages can impact a child’s mental health. Social media can cause obsessive behaviour, where a child focusses on how much engagement they get on their posts (for example, the number of likes and comments on a photo).

Plus, it’s getting increasingly harder for us to filter out what’s fake or not online! Thanks to the ever-evolving technologies, things like filters and photo and video editing apps and software means that anyone can edit the content they post. Because of this, it’s hard (especially for children) to differentiate between what’s real and not. This blurs their perception of reality and can impact their views on the ‘ideal’ body or lifestyle.

A positive online life.

But it’s not all doom and gloom! There are still lots of benefits for children and young people using social media.

They’re able to stay connected with friends and family, and build relationships with others who they wouldn’t have met offline. It gives them the freedom and ability to express themselves, which is a big step in building their confidence! Plus there are so many resources online, letting them access a wealth of knowledge so they can learn different things.

Social media is great, but sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. We’ve put together a blog post talking about screen time and digital wellbeing. It’s got lots of links to resources for your school to help your students.

The Safer Internet Centre has also put together a great guide on the different social media channels. It includes the age requirements, safety tools and advice, and the terms and conditions for each platform.

Social media platforms for children.

Did you know that the minimum age for most social media channels is 13? And WhatsApp is 16! However there are some child-friendly platforms and apps especially for younger children:

  • Spotlight – This is an online community aimed to give children and teens a safer online social experience. Content is reviewed 24/7, and there’s stricter parental controls.
  • PlayKids – PlayKids is aimed at children between 2-8 years old. It lets them connect with others and access games and content, but everything is controlled and monitored by the parents.
  • GoBubble – This is a social media platform for children and teachers. A live moderation team checks and approve all content that’s posted, so nothing nasty slips through the cracks.

How can we help your school?

We regularly share content on our social media channels, aiming to help schools, trusts and parents with a whole range of online safety and safeguarding topics. Give us a follow on LinkedIn, Twitter or Facebook and keep up to date with what we’re doing!

And if you’re worrying about your students accessing social media or inappropriate content while on your networks, we can help! Just get in touch with us and we can have a chat about how we can help your school or trust keep your students safe.

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