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Twitter

Twitter is a free microblogging social networking app where users can post and interact with messages known as ‘Tweets’. 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 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. 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.

Official age rating

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.

How children and young people use the app

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.

Potential risks

Content

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.

Connecting with others

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.

User behaviour

The predominant behaviour risk on Twitter is that users’ opinions and views can potentially reach a very large audience. 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.

Design, data and costs

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.


Tips for keeping your child safe

  • 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.

    To disable direct messages, live video 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 ‘Live video’, untick the box if you do not want your child to stream live content.
    • Under ‘Discoverability’, untick the boxes which allows users to access your email address or phone number.

    To apply content filters:

    • Go to your profile and scroll down to ‘Settings and privacy’.
    • Under ‘Safety’, untick the box stating ‘Display media that may contain sensitive content’.
  • You can report and block users who may be bothering you 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.

Key features and terminology

  • Tweet

    This is the standard short message up to 280 characters. It can be in the form of a text, photos, videos or GIF.

    Retweet

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

    Thread

    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.

    Like

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

    Home or Feed

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

    Hashtag (#)

    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’.

    Direct Messaging

    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.

    Moments

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

General tips

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.