Safeguarding procedures

Do you know your Apps?

By Luke Aldred

​In today’s digital world, working with children and young people is more challenging than ever before. After all, with the prevalent (and frequently changing) use of social media, it’s important that as social workers, we understand what the most popular apps are used by teenagers and young people.

#WildWestWeb – a new NSPCC campaign

Recent research from the NSPCC suggests that 200,000 young people may have been groomed online via social networks. As part of their #WildWestWeb campaign, the charity is calling for statutory legislation which will ensure that social networks have a legal duty of care to protect children.

'1 in 25 11-17 year olds have sent, received or been asked to send sexual content to an adult.'
(Source: NSPCC)

At Sanctuary, we think that this is an extremely worthwhile campaign and we will bring you more information about the progress as and when it is released. 

In the meantime, we are sharing some brief details about some of the most popular apps currently used by teenagers and young people. You will likely already be aware of some of the highest profile apps, but we hope that you can use this checklist to support your social media safeguarding procedures.

Instagram

We know that you’ll be aware of this mainstream photo-sharing app, after all, barely a day passes without some mention of this social network giant in the news. It’s important to be aware of the private messaging facility within the app – many children like to use this because they know that their parents are less likely to check through the messages. 

Social workers need to be aware of Instagram because it is frequently cited as being “bad for mental health.” This is because of unrealistic beauty standards, Fear of Missing Out (FOMO) and a lack of clarity over which images have been digitally altered. The site is working hard to address these concerns and you can use the ‘comment control’ feature to filter words or emojis which could be deemed offensive, inappropriate or triggering.

Snapchat

This is one of the most popular apps amongst young people. Images posted (known as snaps) disappear within seconds and ‘stories’ last 24 hours before disappearing.

In 2017, a joint report from the Royal Society for Public Health and the Young Health Movement surveyed 1500 young people and asked them to score different social media platforms on a range of health and wellbeing statements. It allowed RSPH to establish a ‘league ranking’ of social media sites according to their impact on young people’s mental health.

"It’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people."
- Shirley Cramer CBE, Chief Executive, RSPH

Calculator%

This private photo calculator app is popular amongst young people because it looks like an innocuous app yet allows them to hide inappropriate photos. The original app was removed from the Apple App store in 2018 amid a police investigation although there are numerous similar apps which open a private area upon entering a passcode.

Omegle

This is an anonymous text and video chatroom which allows users to connect with strangers without registering details. Although it has an 18+ age rating, it is not moderated, allowing younger children to join in with ease. 

Ask.fm

This is an anonymous Q+A forum which has historically had issues related to cyber bullying. There is a “do not allow anonymous questions” tab which can be used for privacy and protection.

Twitch

Twitch allows users to live stream themselves when they are playing video games. It is one of the fastest growing platforms for young people and is owned by Amazon.

Whisper, Musical.ly, Kip

These three apps have been rated as dangerous for children and young people because they allow strangers to connect directly with users. There are no filters and in the case of Whisper, the user’s location is shown, making it easier for predators to locate and connect with users.

This is only a snapshot of some of the popular apps and social media sites used by children and young people. We highly recommend that you update yourself with BASW’s social media policy which will outline how social media is being used in safeguarding investigations.