5 Popular Social Media Platforms Your Kids Might Be Using

There is no denying that we are living in a digital age.  With just one click, you can transfer money, make a purchase and have most any item at your doorstep within 48 hours.  You can send a picture across the world or video chat with someone in another country.  News and information travel fast making keeping up with current events much easier.  Technology has made many positive contributions to our society, culture, and world; however, it has come at a cost, especially for our youngest and most vulnerable citizens.  The advancement of technology has created a generation immersed in technology.  “Youths in the 21st century are raised in a digital world where blogs, social networking sites, and instant messaging are part of their everyday lives” (Wright, 2017).  This current generation of youth do not know a world void of cell phones, computers, the internet, and social media and networking sites.  
Maneuvering this digital age is challenging for today’s youth and their families.  The attempt to identify what is right and what is wrong is often blurred.  Kids today need help in the management and use of their social media applications and social networking sites.  They need guidance on what social media applications are safe, which ones are not, and what they should do if they find themselves in a dangerous situation online.  Let’s take a look at a few of the most popular social media and networking applications, focusing on warnings for each and safeguards that can be put in place to help protect our most vulnerable citizens.    


Snapchat is a social media platform that is very popular with kids, tweens, and teens.  It is designed for users to communicate with people through pictures and videos that are automatically deleted after a set period of time.  Users can also communicate through messages that are also automatically deleted.  Users love that there are many filters that can be used to change or add to their appearance, which makes using the app a fun experience.  Snapchat is considered a disappearing data application.
Charteris and her colleagues have done extensive research on social media applications and provide “a detailed account of key discourses – innocence, surveillance, cyberbullying and sexting – that are linked with the use of disappearing data applications” (Charteris, et al., 2018).  Social media applications such as Snapchat have become extremely popular with students of all ages.  “Applications such as Snapchat, Frankly, Wickr, Blink and Glimpse provide a social landscape through which teens surveil themselves and others” (Charteris, et al., 2018).  These social media applications have also become the predominate way that kids communicate with one another.  “Like other graphic capturing software (Instagram or Tumblr) these media provide a mechanism for teens to constitute (and re-constitute) themselves in teen discourse – to see and be seen” (Charteris, et al., 2018).  This discourse is also drastically different from the way that their parents and subsequent generations communicated.  For this generation, it is all about the image. “The ubiquitous nature of image sharing perpetuates teen culture in a way that transcends traditional conversational methods” (Charteris, et al., 2018).
The use of Snapchat and other similar social media and networking applications brings with it several warnings and concerns for parents and educators of school age students.  Because posts are automatically deleted after a set period of time, Snapchat has become a platform for abuse and exploitation through cyberbullying and sexting.  Users have a false sense of safety because pictures and videos disappear after a short time, and they therefore think that their posts are not permanent.  However, posts are not necessarily gone forever.  Screenshots can be taken of the pictures for other users to keep and post on other platforms.  The false security of images being deleted encourages kids to do things that they may not do in the absence of it.  Charteris and Gregory explain that “They lack concern that their peers may access sensitive digitally mediated sexualized communication and engage in activities they would not necessarily do in face-to-face encounters” (Charteris & Gregory, 2020).  
Elizabeth Whitaker and Robin Kowalski explored cyberbullying via social media in their 2015 article.  This comprehensive study looked at cyberbullying among college students and the venues used by perpetrators.  Whitaker and Kowalski found that texting and social media were the most used avenues for cyberbullying, that the aggressive behavior of the perpetrator was higher when the targets were known by the aggressor, and that features of the target affected the posts and online comments.  The authors also concluded that cyberbullying evolves based on the type of technological forum readily used by the participants and what is familiar to them.  Snapchat is a social media application that is very familiar to kids of all ages and is a venue that can be used to abuse and exploit children.  
It is imperative that parents and educators acknowledge that kids are using Snapchat and that safeguards need to be put in place to protect them from harm.  With the advancement and continual increase of technology, it is impractical to believe that getting kids off their devices is the answer, especially when one takes into consideration that technology is this generations primary form of communication.  The answer according to Elizabeth Marcoux is digital citizenship (Marcoux, 2014).  Education needs to be at the forefront of combating the serious issues of abuse and exploitation from social media applications like Snapchat.  Students need to be taught the seriousness of using these applications, the harm that they can cause, and how to combat and deal with them in a positive way.  Students need to also be taught the necessary skills for how to act and treat others through technology.  Students are taught what is acceptable and not acceptable in the classroom, and these same principles in education need to be translated from the classroom to the chat room.  Curriculum, effective school policies that teach computer/technology etiquette and ethics are necessary and need to be a regular part of a student’s education.  Our education system, which includes school staff and teachers, can do so much to help alleviate the pain and trauma associated with the use of social media applications in the wrong way.  

Tik Tok

Tik Tok is a creative social media application that offers people a way to post 15-60 second videos that they have created.  The most popular videos are of people dancing, playing practical jokes, or providing comedic relief to engage viewers in fun and laughter.  These videos can be seen and shared with anyone so long as their privacy settings allows it.  If a user sets their account to private, only those who they want to follow them can see their videos.  Direct Messaging can also be done through Tik Tok.  Tik Tok is mainly used for personal platforms, entertainment, and self-gratification.
Tik Tok has been the topic of discussion in our country in recent months, and it is not without controversy and warnings.  Despite the controversy surrounding it, it remains one of the most popular social media applications that kids are using today.  “The popularity of TikTok amongst the younger generation could also be explained by the fact that the app creators decided to choose teenagers as their target audience from the very beginning” (Weimann & Masri, 2020).  So why is Tik Tok so appealing for kids today?  “What helps TikTok stand out among the competition is that practically anyone can become a content provider because of the simplicity of using the app” (Weimann & Masri, 2020).  Some of the dangers associated with the use of Tik Tok lies in the inappropriate content readily available to children, its addictive nature, and the dangerous challenges that kids can find themselves getting sucked into.  Its addictive nature is particularly alarming.  In 2017, Kuss and Griffiths did extensive research on the addictiveness of social networking sites.  They found that “The perceived need to be online may lead to compulsive use of SNSs, which in extreme cases may result in symptoms and consequences traditionally associated with substance-related addictions” (Kuss & Griffiths, 2017).  It is not uncommon for kids to spend hours scrolling through videos on Tik Tok.  
Teaching kids how to develop a healthy relationship with social media is an important first step in combating the negative effects it has on their lives.  Parents, educators, and pediatricians all have an obligation to engage our kids in a healthy conversation on the positive and negative effects that social media applications have on their lives.  In the European Journal of Pediatrics, Hadjipanayis and his colleagues discuss the pediatrician’s role.  “Pediatricians should provide suitable, opportunistic social media guidance for children and their parents during routine, follow-up consultations” (Hadjipanayis, et al., 2019).  Pediatricians and medical professionals are starting to incorporate questions on internet and social media use in their routine health screenings of children and teens, in addition to asking about physical health, diet, exercise, and mental health. It is essential that parents and educators monitor and help kids navigate their online life just as much as their physical life. The abundance of information and resources available to parents and educators on how to help kids maneuver social media and keep kids from becoming addicted to applications like Tik Tok helps accomplish this.


Discord is a communication application that offers instant messaging, voice and video calls, and text messaging.  It allows people to form private chat rooms and communities around different types of relationships - familial, friend, employment, education, the list goes on.  Users can create their own private chatrooms, or they can join a community based on a common interest, hobby, experience, or past time.
Finding virtual community is not a bad thing.  In fact, staying in touch with family and friends can help individuals on many levels and can keep people from self-isolating.  The creation of social media applications that allow for easy connectivity has been one benefit of the digital age.  Now, people can get and stay connected with people from all over the world.  Online communities have formed based on graduation dates, times spent in service to our country, shared interests, clubs, associations, or with people who have lived or grown up in a certain geographical area.  Discord is one way that people can stay connected.  
Frequent use of technology and social media has been perceived negatively in recent years, and the fear of social isolation is a reality.  However, there is research to indicate that social media use has positive effects and benefits for the user.  “For example, a young person sitting at a computer, or almost constantly using their smartphone, may appear socially isolated, but in fact the young person may be using the device to overcome social isolation; it is argued that the ‘social isolation’ perspective may have been constructed by adults’ misconception” (Boyd, 2014).  Valkenburg and Peter state that “there may be further opportunities for young people in building self-esteem, supporting relationship formation and developing friendship quality” (Valkenburg & Peter, 2011). Tynes (2007) argues that “the use of social networking sites supports aspects of educational and psychological development of young people, such as critical thinking and perspective taking” (Tynes, 2007).  While social media and networking sites have serious concerns associated with their use, one must not overlook the benefits of connecting with and communicating with others in the user’s social circle.  
The use of an application like Discord can assist with the development and maintaining of community. However, with any type of technology, it is important to have healthy boundaries in place to mediate and monitor its effects on one’s physical and mental health.  One must acknowledge that if the users have not reached a level of maturity and self-restraint and do not treat others with respect, dangerous behaviors can escalate.
Some of the warnings associated with Discord are abusive language, hate speech, and cyberbullying.  Gamers find themselves frequently using Discord within their gaming community, and within the unfiltered and unmonitored communities comes the potential for abuse.  Teaching kids what is acceptable and not acceptable online behavior is essential for parent and educators.  
As with any other technology or social media application, parents need to monitor the different communities that their kids are a part of and be on the lookout for certain behaviors associated with cyberbullying.  An authentic and healthy conversation on the negatives effects of cyberbullying can go a long way to helping prevent and overcome the abuse.  


Whisper is an app used as a social media and networking application that allows users to remain anonymous.  The description on Google Play reads, “Whisper is an online community where millions of people around the world share real thoughts, trade advice, and get the inside scoop.”  Whisper is known for being raw and authentic, and the addictive quality is similar to that of Tik Tok.
According to Netnanny, “What makes Whisper one of the most dangerous apps for kids are the anonymous features, as well as the location-based grouping. Pair that with the ability for other local anonymous users to direct message your children and you’ve got the perfect recipe for your child to be in contact with an online predator” (Netnanny, 2019).  There are no parental controls in Whisper, and according to Cyber Safety Cop, “Children use Whisper to ‘secretly’ express their sadness, emotional needs, or sexually explicit thoughts” (Cranford, 2018).   Hadjipanayis and his colleagues report that “These kinds of activities place one’s privacy at risk, which may often be underestimated by inexperienced media users, such as children and adolescents” (Hadjipanayis, et al., 2019).  Children and teens using Whisper are putting themselves at risk for abuse and exploitation, and parents and educators need to be aware of the dangers associated with its use.  
The same safeguards for the above-referenced social media and networking applications are appropriate for Whisper.  Parents especially need to be on guard and alert for its use by their children.  Posts on Whisper can be a potential cry for help and warning signs of deeper emotional and psychological problems that need to be addressed.  

Calculator+ Hide Your Secret

The Calculator+ Hide Your Secret app is an application that kids and teens can download onto their phones or devices to hide videos and photos.  The app icon looks like a harmless calculator app so when parents do phone checks, they assume that it is a regular calculator app and are not alarmed.  It even functions like a calculator once the app is open.  Parents and teachers are unsuspecting to the fact that the Calculator+ app may be hiding alarming and inappropriate content. The files saved on this app are password protected and can only be viewed inside the app itself.
The whole idea of the Calculator+ app is to hide content; therefore, the warnings for this app’s usage revolve around the type of content that is being hidden.  This app is used for hiding sexting and sexually explicit photos and videos.  Its use is ripe for abuse and sexual exploitation, and parents and educators need to be aware of children’s and teen’s use of this app.  Unfortunately, the images and videos cannot be accessed without the password set by the user, so verifying what content is being stored in the app is virtually impossible without the consent of the user.  
Social media applications like Calculator+ emphasize the need for parents and educators to share teachable moments and have conversations with their children to discuss the pros and cons of social media and networking applications such as Calculator+ before they are used.  Sexting is not an easy topic to discuss; however, it is imperative that parents and educators attack the issue head on.  Hadjipanayis and his colleagues discuss the importance of teaching children the consequences of engaging in sexting.  “There is therefore an obvious need to make children understand the long-term impact of sexting on their own digital footprint” (Hadjipanayis, et al., 2019).  Children and teens need to understand the long-term ramifications that engaging in sexting brings with it.  Sexting has negative psychological ramifications for those that engage in it, can affect future relationships, can lead to legal situations and concerns, and can affect future opportunities.  As difficult as they may be, conversations on the negative consequences of sexting need to be had.

In Conclusion

Technology is here to stay, and in many ways, it has transformed our culture for the better. However, with its rapid increase, maneuvering through its complexities has been difficult. Keeping our youngest citizens safe should be society’s priority.  Making sure they have the necessary skills, education, and training to navigate this digital world needs to be a primary focus of our families and education system.  


Boyd, D. (2014). It’s complicated: The social lives of networked teens. New Haven & London:Yale University Press.

Charteris, J., Gregory, S., & Masters, Y. (2018). Snapchat, youth subjectivities and sexuality: disappearing media and the discourse of youth innocence, Gender and Education, 30:2,205-221, DOI: 10.1080/09540253.2016.1188198

Charteris, J. & Gregory, S. (2020). Snapchat and digitally mediated sexualised communication:ruptures in the school home nexus, Gender and Education, 32:6, 803-819, DOI:10.1080/09540253.2018.1533922

Cranford, C., (2018). Whisper App – Phenomenally popular app with teens and predators, Cyber Safety Cop, retrieved on February 21, 2021, https://www.cybersafetycop.com/whisperappphenomenallypopularappwithteensandpredators/#:~:text=Children use Whisper to “”secretly,and manipulate a vulnerable child.

Hadjipanayis, A., Efstathiou, E., Altorjai, P., Stiris, T., Valiulis, A., Koletzko, B., & Fonseca, H.          (2019). Social media and children: what is the paediatrician’s role? European Journal of        Pediatrics, 178(10), 1605-1612.

Kuss, D., Griffiths, M. (2017).  Social Networking Sites and Addiction: Ten Lessons Learned International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 14. https://doi-         org.ezproxy.liberty.edu/10.1080/1057610X.2020.1780027

Marcoux, E. (2015).  Cyberbullying and Technology, Teacher Librarian, 42(2), 69-71, Retrieved from

Netnanny, (2019). 8 Most Dangerous Messaging Apps for Kids, retrieved on February 21, 2021, https://www.netnanny.com/blog/8mostdangerousmessagingappsforKids/#:~:text=What makes Whisper one of,contact with an online predator.

Tynes, B. M. (2007). Internet safety gone wild?: Sacrificing the educational and psychosocial           benefits of online social environments. Journal of Adolescent Research, 22(6), 575–584.         doi:10.1177/0743558407303979

Valkenburg, P. M., Peter, J. (2011). Online communication among adolescents: An integrated           model of its attraction, opportunities, and risks. Journal of Adolescent Health, 48(2), 121–       127.

Whisper, Retrieved on February 21, 2021,      

Whittaker, E., Kowalski, R. (2015).  Cyberbullying Via Social Media, Journal of School          Violence, 14, 11–29, DOI: 10.1080/15388220.2014.949377

Wright, M. (2017).  Cyberbullying in Cultural Context, Journal of Cross-Cultural Psychology,           48(8) 1136-1137, DOI:  10.1177/0022022117723107

Weimann, G., Masri, N. (2020). Research Note: Spreading Hate on TikTok, Studies In          Conflict & Terrorism, 14

Below are a few links to some helpful resources for parents.  

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