Is Reddit safe for kids and adults?

Reddit safe

Reddit is one of the most popular social sites globally and has been for over a decade.

It is a free app with more than 430 million active monthly users and more than 100,000 active communities. It is not for no reason that it has garnered the nickname ‘the front page of the internet'.

But, the question that concerns its users is: Is Reddit safe?

It is hugely popular when it comes to the question of whether Reddit is safe to use, there is still much debate. Some suggest that it is safer than many social media sites, others argue that it isn't, especially for children and younger users.

So should you be letting your children loose on the Reddit platform? Should you be using it freely yourself? And what steps should you be taking to keep yourself safe on this website?

In this guide, we will tell you everything you need to know about safety on Reddit for you and your kids.

5 Reasons Reddit is unsafe

Let's begin searching for an answer to the question “Is Reddit safe?” by looking at the reasons why some people think Reddit is an unsafe platform for other users, such as teens.

There are lots of things we could list here that apply to all websites and social media sites. But you can find information and links about that type of online safety anywhere on the internet.

In this guide, we are going to look at safety issues with a specific focus on Reddit:

1. Content

Reddit is a huge repository of user-generated content and comment. Much of this content on Reddit is unfiltered and this means that kids (and older users too) can run the risk of encountering almost anything that they are uncomfortable with.

This might include access to NSFW (Not Safe For Work) content like:

  • Pornography or explicit content
  • Violence
  • Extremist content
  • Terrorist content
  • Hate speech
  • Racism
  • Propaganda
  • Other inappropriate text messages

While there are filters on Reddit to help you stay away from adult content, these are not 100% effective and there is a huge amount of inappropriate content that can still slip through.

2. Misinformation

Being a platform for user-generated content means that any user can post information on Reddit as and when they please. While this can include adult content, this means it can be a haven for fake news and misinformation.

This can be difficult to spot and range from propaganda churned out by authoritarian regimes like Russia and Communist China to deep fakes, news stories from bogus websites, and much more.

Quote

Reddit moderators from Alberta, Canada said, “Misinformation on Reddit has become unmanageable.” (Source)

While Reddit might try to clear up some of this content, it is almost impossible to address it all, so it is vital that all Reddit users are able to disseminate between authentic content and misinformation.

3. Cyberbullying

Like all social platforms, Reddit can be a platform for cyberbullies to go after targets.

This can be off the back of knowing people in the real world. But it can also be triggered by user posts, opinions, interests, and likes that are put up on the site.

It can even extend as far as abuse, manipulation, and even blackmail.

As with all other sites, Reddit has policies to address this type of behavior. These have recently been updated with a Reddit administrator admitting that the narrowness of the previous rules had made them less effective.

But it can only be effective up to a point, so users need to understand the clear policies they need to use if they encounter bullying on the site.

4. Predators

Because most users on Reddit are anonymous, Reddit content is not the only thing to be careful about.

Anyone can essentially pretend to be whatever they want.

Sadly, that means Reddit can be a haven for predators who will target some vulnerable users, especially younger ones and the platform cannot know in advance who these unknown users are, and ban users who are a danger to children.

Unfortunately, Reddit has been a place where the grooming of young users has taken place, even though it has an age limit.

This means that it is vital that young users don't give out personal details or agree to meet any Reddit users. Even opening and responding to private messages should be overseen by adults.

5. Challenges

Online challenges can be interesting, amusing, and light-hearted. We all remember the ice water challenge from a few years back.

But some online challenges go too far and can even put children in danger. Some high profile examples include the Reddit 50/50 challenge, which can expose users to some horrific and highly inappropriate content.

As one expert said, this will either “reaffirm your faith in humanity, or it will gross you out/scar you for life.”

Others, such as the Tide Pod challenge can cause some physical harm, while more severe ones, for example, the Blue Whale Challenge, can result in self-harming or worse.

Quote

Lauren Paige Kennedy of WebMD says online challenges are “a recipe for lack of impulse control, even among the smartest, most responsible kids.” (Source)

The only way to avoid these is to ensure that users are strong enough not to submit to peer pressure and can make good decisions for themselves.

5 Reasons Reddit is safe

While it is easy to dwell on the risks associated with using Reddit, it also has to be emphasised that there are plenty of reasons why Reddit is a safer social network to use than some others:

1. Content moderation

While it might be impossible to oversee all of the content on Reddit, there is still a hybrid moderation scheme in place that does its level best to keep content in line with the site's policies.

This includes a large team of administrators (often referred to as admins) who are Reddit's ultimate policy enforcers. They also oversee a sizeable team of volunteer moderators (mods) who can moderate content, remove content, and block users who are breaking the rules.

There are also various automated moderation tools applied to Reddit which help to identify and filter content such as child pornography which is in clear breach of the policies.

2. Privacy

Don't get us wrong, Reddit is not perfect when it comes to privacy. It is owned by the Conde Naste group, which has a vested interest in profiting from user data.

However, it is still a lot better than other popular sites like Facebook. Facebook's feed takes away as much as it gives, while Reddit still has some respect for user privacy.

There is no requirement to use your real identity. You don't even have to share an email address to register if you don't want to (although there is the option to).

Reddit does save a lot of the content you put up on the site, which they claim is to help them investigate complaints. They also log things like your IP address, URLs that you visit, hardware settings, search history, etc.

But IP Addresses are deleted after 100 days and there are other tools that you can use to mitigate this data being stored, which I'll cover later.

3. Account Security

Reddit monitors accounts for online security breaches and questionable content in a way that other social media platforms don't. It constantly seeks inappropriate behavior, dangerous content, as well as NSFW content.

Reddit attracts all kinds of community members, even more so than other platforms.

If there is unusual activity or trends that compare to identified threats, the Reddit app will proactively take steps to warn users and lock accounts.

They also offer two-factor authentication and other options for safety online too.

On the flip side to this, Reddit has suffered several data breaches in the past, which is why we would encourage visitors to minimise the amount of personal data they share on the site.

4. Account monitoring

The Reddit app also offers tools to monitor your own account activity as well.

If you go to account settings, you can check your logins by IP address. If you spot an IP address that isn't yours or that of any computer you've been on, you can take steps such as changing your password and checking other account details to make sure they haven't been changed.

5. Account hacking response

If you are unfortunate enough to have your Reddit account hacked, the site response is swift and decisive.

Your Reddit account will be locked immediately and you will be prompted to change your password and advised on other steps you can take to secure your account again.

If the account has been used illegally, it can be shut down completely and this will sometimes also happen to accounts where ownership cannot be verified too.

How to stay safe on Reddit

Having identified the main reasons why Reddit can be both unsafe and safe, the obvious next step is to recommend the key steps you can take to ensure that you and your children can use Reddit safely:

1. Parental Oversight

Reddit doesn't offer parental controls as such, but there are a number of steps you can take to oversee your child's account.

Most of it is just plain old common sense, which should be applied on almost every site that your child frequents.

Firstly, parents should create the account on the website together with them and ensure that you have access to the account too.

The first thing to do once the account is set up is to head to the settings menu.

Here you can make some changes to make things more secure such as making the account more private, blocking adult content posts, stopping contact requests from strangers, and limiting data tracking on the website.

Make sure that your kids always stay logged into Reddit when using the site too.

It is possible to browse while logged out and if they do so, these settings and filters will not apply, and they will be able to visit different subreddits – including all those other subreddits that you don't want them to see.

2. Use strong passwords

Make sure you use strong passwords with your Reddit accounts to help prevent the accounts from being hacked.

It is also a good idea to change your password regularly too.

Learn More

Discover more about the best Password Managers to automatically create and store complex passwords for you.

3. Report Posts and Comments / Block users

If you or your kids do encounter inappropriate content or have contact from a cyberbully, ensure that they know they can report all comments and posts to Reddit and teach them how to do it.

Here is a simple guide to report a post:

  1. Click the button at the bottom of the post.
  2. Select Report
  3. Choose a reason for reporting the post from the options given
  4. Click Submit

Reddit report a post

And you can report a comment as follows:

  1. Click Report below the comment
  2. Choose a reason for reporting the post from the options given
  3. Click Submit

If you or your child wants to stop engaging with an individual user on Reddit, you can also block them as follows:

  1. Visit the user profile
  2. Click More Options
  3. Click Block User

Reddit block user

4. Boost online privacy by using a VPN

We always recommend using a VPN when interacting on Reddit.

Learn More

Discover more about what a VPN is and how it helps you stay private online.

A VPN won't block inappropriate content or unpleasant comments, but it will encrypt all of your online and hide your IP Address, which Reddit does log routinely.

With the various security and privacy risks that Reddit can pose, a VPN is a very sensible precaution to take.

5. Don't click on link / images / media

It is easy to post a link, an image, or another type of media on Reddit, but it may not be what it seems. Or rather, it is not only what you can see at the first glance.

This is a common way to spread malware, spyware, and other malicious content, so it is always advisable to avoid links on Reddit unless you are confident that the source is genuine.

We would advise that you set this bar as high as possible and teach your kids to do the same.

6. Never share personal information

No Reddit app users should share personal details such as real name, age, contact details, or other real life data with anyone on the site.

This information should absolutely not be posted in public forums either, which is also just common sense.

The security consequences, both online and in-person, can be serious.

7. Engage with young users

If you are letting your children use Reddit, don't just leave them to it, talk to them about what they are doing on the site and take an interest.

Make sure they understand the risks, set some clear rules for them to follow, and ensure they are always using the site in an open room in the house where you can see what they are doing.

Learn More

You can find out more in our Complete Kids Online Safety Guide for Parents.

Summary

Reddit is a social site that has advantages and disadvantages when it comes to staying safe, private, and secure.

Is Reddit safe for you and your kids? That depends on you.

It has a lot going for it compared to other social platforms but there are still some serious risks that should not be ignored.

We have made some clear and simple recommendations in this guide about how to stay safe when using Reddit, especially for younger users.

Keep an eye on what young users are doing and talk to them and stay engaged. Make sure they know how to stay safe and report users, that they never share personal information, and that they consider using additional tools such as a VPN.

There is lots that can be got out of Reddit for younger users with just a few simple precautionary steps. So, if you do your research and take precautions, we say that you should absolutely feel free to use it.

Happy browsing!

Author: David Spencer

Cyber-security & Technology Reporter, David, monitors everything going on in the privacy world. Fighting for a less restricted internet as a member of the VPNCompare team for over 5 years.

Away from writing, he enjoys reading and politics. He is currently learning Mandarin too... slowly.

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