In October 2022, Twitter was bought by entrepreneur Elon Musk who instated himself as CEO of the platform. Since taking over Twitter, several changes have been made to the platform and continue to be frequently made. Due to the high frequency of changes on the platform, please be aware that this app guide is correct as of March 2023.

Twitter is a free microblogging social networking service where users can post and interact with messages known as ‘Tweets’. Twitter is accessed via a web browser or mobile app for Windows, Android and iOS services. Registered users can post, like and retweet other people’s tweets. If you have not registered, you can read and scroll through the content of others on a web browser but not post. Tweets can contain written text, photos, videos and links and can be read by your followers, and are searchable on a Twitter search. Tweets are restricted to 280 characters and audio or video files limited to 140 seconds. Account holders are recommended other accounts to follow based on your interests and if you elect to follow or subscribe to other users you will see their updates in your feed. 

Twitter has become the platform of choice for many adults to participate in communities of interests and share research and viewpoints quickly and easily. It allows users to blend professional interest with short viewpoints about hobbies, personal interests, frustrations, or jokes. Its accessible short-form content makes it easy to post ideas, questions, and viewpoints and many high-profile people use Twitter this way. 

The minimum age for Twitter users is 13, however it does not have any rigorous age verification methods. 

All accounts default to a public setting, where content can be viewed by any other users on the platform. For younger users, setting an account to private is recommended. 

Find out more about age ratings in our ‘A parent and carer’s guide to age ratings of apps and games’.

Twitter is popular with some young people for its snappy and often humorous short updates. Children and young people enjoy the interactivity, making connections and the fact that it can bring people instantly up to date with new stories and trending conversations and topics. Tweets are often entertaining, funny and very regularly updated so every time your feed is refreshed, there is more and more engaging content for you to continuously interact with. It is especially engaging for young people as the number of likes, retweets and followers they receive can provide a sense of approval, popularity and acceptance. When tweets become particularly successful or viral, it can be satisfying for young people but may also invite unwanted attention or harassment. Twitter is also frequently used by celebrities, influencers and leaders which often leads young fans to join Twitter to interact with them and their Twitter-based fan communities.

  • This is the standard short message up to 280 characters. It can be in the form of written text, image, video or audio file or GIF.

  • If somebody ‘Retweets’ a tweet, it means that they’ve shared it with all their followers.

  • A ‘Quote tweet’ is a retweet that allows the user to add their own comments to the original tweet and publish both to their followers. A ‘Quote tweet’ allows a user to provide context to a retweet and starts a new thread that followers can like or retweet separately to the original tweet.

  • When somebody writes a tweet and then posts another tweet that links to it, this will appear as a ‘Thread’. It allows for longer content and ideas to be expressed by connecting shorter tweets.

  • Users can ‘Like’ another user’s tweet by using the heart-shaped icon.

  • This is the area that displays the tweets and retweets of users you follow.

  • Hashtags are used to tag key words or trending topics. They bring all discussion into one place and allow all the tweets to be viewed by a larger audience. Popular hashtags, topics, and news stories the Twitter algorithms think you might be interested in are offered in the ‘For you’ section, whilst more general trending topics can be found under ‘Trending’.

  • You can use this feature to have private conversations with other Twitter users. The default settings mean direct messages can be sent and received by all account holders.

  • You can create ‘Moments’ by grouping together tweets and messages.

  • These are small programs that run within the app and are made by third-party developers.  Bots (short for Robot) are computer programmes designed to simulate human activity and complete repetitive tasks. 

Content on Twitter is added and generated by users and much of it is unmoderated. It is possible for content to be reported and removed for falling outside of Twitter’s community standards and users are encouraged to mark content that they tweet as potentially sensitive (including sexual or violent content), so it is captured by filters. There can be some abusive racism, misogyny and hate speech on Twitter as well as vitriolic and toxic disagreement. Sexual content is also easily searchable and accessible as some sex workers use Twitter as a platform to advertise their work. By restricting who your child can access on the platform, your child is less likely to experience language, content or behaviour that is not suitable for their age.  However, it should be acknowledged that your child may still be exposed to inappropriate content by their known contacts.

Since Twitter’s takeover in October 2022, the number of staff has reduced significantly, resulting in weakened content moderation teams. This means the platform must rely more on automation to detect harmful content, rather than real-life moderators identifying such content.  Extra care should be taken by parents and carers to review the type of content your child is being exposed to on the platform. Encourage your child to talk to you if they encounter content they find upsetting.

Algorithmic changes have been made to the platform, changing the way users are being served content. Previously, users would see tweets in chronological order. However, now users are being shown a curated selection of tweets that may be of interest to them in the ‘For you’ section, including Musk’s own tweets. Users of the app have the option to choose whether to view content from people they follow, or tweets recommended by Twitter. For more information on how to do this, refer to the ‘Managing interactions and content’ section of this guide. This setting should be checked regularly.

There are risks of contact with strangers in terms of online bullying, harassment, and abusive interactions. Online bullying can be particularly problematic on Twitter because popular users can quickly engage many of their followers to become involved and to add their own input extending the joke or unkind remark. This can be known as a Twitter ‘Pile on’.

Twitter can also present a grooming risk to children and young people using the platform because of the potential for direct messaging. As with other platforms, predators may use children’s vulnerability in these platforms to give them praise and establish a rapport to leverage a 1-2-1 interaction in a direct messaging context. Make sure that ‘Direct messaging’ is disabled in line with the settings below. Speak to your child about the risks of connecting with strangers and explain the importance of not sharing any personal or identifiable information on their profile or within chats. Remind users to tell you if they have been asked more personal questions or to chat privately using a different app.

Also try to make sure your child is aware of hackers and scammers on Twitter. They may be on the receiving end of encouragement to click on links or contact people privately which can be attempts to hack or trick them or take over their accounts.    

Some Twitter profiles are automated accounts controlled by a software bot. Twitter bot, sometimes known as ‘zombies’, are programmed to operate like ordinary Twitter users (such as liking or following) but their purpose is to tweet and retweet specific content for a predetermined purpose, often on a large scale. Some bots are benign and help spread positive messages quickly. However, bots can be designed for malevolent purposes, such as manipulation or intimidation of other users, spamming or spreading fake news and misinformation. Bots can be used to artificially inflate the number of followers to a genuine profile, which can increase the credibility and social influence of that user based on their apparent popularity.

The predominant behaviour risk on Twitter is that users’ opinions and views can potentially reach a very large audience. Since the platform’s takeover in 2022, several previously banned users have been reinstated. High-profile personalities have had their accounts reinstated, despite previously being removed from the platform for violating Twitter’s rules. Talk to your child about the type of people they choose to follow on the platform and encourage them to think critically about the tweets they read. Remind your child to speak to you if they read something they find upsetting or do not understand.

Have a conversation with your child to help them understand what is and is not appropriate for them to share and discuss the various ways they can protect themselves by sharing with their contacts only. Ensure your child knows it can be difficult to keep ownership of any content once it has been shared online and that it will leave a permanent digital record. There is also a live-streaming feature on Twitter, and it is important to disable this for younger users. If they are older, talk to your child about the risks of live streaming.

Twitter presents risks for children and young people because the content is in digestible short fragments which are easily engaged with and do not require attentional skills or effort. This way of consuming information can be very appealing to young people and can lead to them using the app for extended periods scrolling through a constantly updating feed. Speak to your child about setting boundaries on their Twitter use and explore the notification settings to help them achieve some screen-free time.

Twitter has launched a paid-for service, known as ‘Twitter Blue’. Subscribers to this service are promised that their tweets will be prioritised in the algorithm; they can edit posts and see fewer adverts. Twitter Blue users will have their accounts verified with a blue checkmark. Speak to your child about how subscriptions work and remind them that this is a business strategy for Twitter to make money, rather than offering a huge benefit to users.

  • Twitter is a secure platform that requires password-protected accounts to access full functionality but the security is effective only if the user protects their password and does not allow anyone else access to their account. Twitter collects extensive data about users, such as username, location, profile image, time zone and birthday to personalise the user’s experience and generate recommendations based on their profile and activity. This information can be attractive to hackers but also can be utilised by other users to initiate contact. Twitter accounts are set to public by default, but it is possible to change account settings to private and make sure that only their followers can see and interact with their tweets. 

    To make an account private:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Tweets’, select the option to ‘Protect your tweets’.
    • Scroll down to ‘Photo tagging’ and select off from the listed options.
  • Twitter has a range of safety settings to help manage interactions and content, including switching off certain features and applying filters on content.  Tweets can be sent with location data automatically attached, which potentially can be used to track the whereabouts of the user. Tweet location can be deactivated in settings. Twitter also has an option to control who is able to tag a user in photographs.

    To disable direct messages and discoverability:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Direct messages’, untick the box to stop your child receiving private messages.
    • Under ‘Discoverability and contacts’, untick the boxes which allows users to access your email address or phone number.

    To manage photo tagging:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Privacy and safety’, select ‘Audience and tagging’.
    • Select ‘Photo tagging’ and check an appropriate control option.

    To apply content filters:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Content you see’, untick the box stating ‘Display media that may contain sensitive content’.

    To disable location information:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Privacy and safety’, select ‘Location information’.
    • Uncheck ‘Personalise based on places you’ve been’.
    • Uncheck ‘Personalise based on precise location’.
    • Note: Location also can be turned off via the desktop version of Twitter.

    To choose between ‘For you’ and ‘Following’:

    • Go to the ‘Home feed’ by selecting the house icon at the bottom left of the screen.
    • Choose ‘Following’ at the top right of the screen.
  • Users can report and block other users who may be bothering them or behaving inappropriately on the platform.

    To report a user:

    • Go to the profile of the user you wish to report and click on the three dots icon.
    • Select ‘Report’ and choose from the listed options to complete your request.

    To block a user:

    • Go to the profile of the user you wish to report and click on the three dots icon.
    • Select ‘Block’ and choose from the listed options to complete your request.

    To mute a user:

    • Go to the profile of the user you wish to report and click on the three dots icon.
    • Select ‘Mute’ and choose from the listed options to complete your request.
  • Twitter users can manage their notification settings to help reduce the number and type of notifications they receive. There is an extensive list of notification options to choose from or you can stop ‘Push notifications’.

    To manage notifications:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Tap ‘Notifications’ then tap ‘Push notifications’ and work through the list of notifications you wish to stop or receive.

Whilst there is some uncertainty about the future of Twitter, users are being advised to protect their accounts. It is recommended that users get a copy of their archive.

To get your archive:

  • Go to the settings menu on your profile and select ‘More’.
  • Choose ‘Settings privacy’ and select ‘Your account’.
  • Choose the ‘Download archive’ option.

Users are also being advised not to delete their accounts if they no longer want to use Twitter, as it makes them vulnerable to a fake account being set up in their name. Instead, users should use the settings menu and select ‘Protect your tweets.’

Twitter users can no longer share live location information and any tweets that share location information will be suspended.

Talk to your child about online bullying and the importance behaving in an ethical way on digital platforms. What can seem harmless from behind a keyboard can have a life-changing impact on someone who is subject to abuse or shaming on social media.  

Twitter provides extensive guidance on account security that can be accessed here.