SC Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

Online Platforms

What are my kids doing online?

The most fundamental part of Internet safety is to establish regular, open communication with children about what they see and do on the Internet. That means it is important for you to understand the different online platforms your child may have access to use.

Social Media

Social Media is one of the biggest attractions to the internet, and this is especially true for members of the younger generations. Social Media is defined as the websites and applications that allow users to generate, curate, and share content and otherwise engage in online social networking. You have probably heard of the big names in Social Media, like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, but there are countless Social Media platforms that are available right now, and more are being developed regularly.

As Social Media is such a broad term, we are focusing here on the broadest of Social Media platforms that allows users to share their information in many different ways with many different people. Websites and apps like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr are home to billions of users who see these platforms as a way to express themselves, to interact with friends (or strangers), and to share their information with others.

Social Media Platform Definitions

Founded in 2004, Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected. People use Facebook to stay connected with friends and family, to discover what’s going on in the world, and to share and express what matters to them. - Source: Facebook

To give everyone the power to create and share ideas and information instantly, without barriers. - Source: Twitter

Tumblr lets you effortlessly share anything. Post text, photos, quotes, links, music, and videos from your browser, phone, desktop, email or wherever you happen to be. - Source: Tumblr

Live Streaming

Why experience the world alone when you can share that experience with hundreds or thousands of other people simultaneously? This is the appeal of one of the latest trends in Social Media: Live Streaming. Live Streaming allows users to broadcast what they are doing while they are doing it to people all over the world. These streams can be limited to followers or subscribed viewers, or these streams can be open to the public for everyone to see. Regardless of the privacy settings of the stream, live streaming can be an exciting way to engage your friends and followers, however there are always risks involved.

Live streaming is, well, live. That means that there is no editing, no censoring, and no mechanism to keep you from doing something you’ll regret and telling the whole world about it. While normal posts on social media give the user a chance to review content before it is shared online, live streaming makes that material accessible in real-time, making it a lot less forgiving than other methods of sharing. Users may give away personal information without thinking about it, say things that they will later regret, or even perform actions that put them at risk of harm or punishment without having a chance to think about the consequences of those actions.

While there are some dangers involved in live streaming, it is also one of the fastest growing methods of content production online right now, so there is a pretty good chance that it isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.

Live Streaming Platform Definitions

Periscope was founded on the belief that live video is a powerful source of truth and connects us in an authentic way with the world around us. We are fascinated by the idea of discovering the world through someone else’s eyes. What’s it like to see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine? Or watch the sunrise from a hot air balloon in Cappadocia? - Source: Periscope

Founded in June 2011, Twitch is the world’s leading social video platform and community for gamers, video game culture, and the creative arts. Each day, close to 10 million visitors gather to watch and talk about video games with more than 2 million streamers. - Source: Twitch

Watching Videos

The internet has become a hub for many new things, but one of the most popular activities online is something that we’ve been doing for decades: watching videos and movies. Consuming video content is a growing trend online with new companies focusing on digital video content and older companies, like Facebook and Instagram, making sure that they are incorporating video into their platforms in a meaningful way. Online videos can be produced by professional studios, much like the entertainment we see on television and in the movies, but these videos are also made by other internet users. This provides an array of content, some of which is not appropriate for all consumers.

While watching videos online parents should be aware that there is not much oversight as to what can be shared in these videos. Online platforms like YouTube and Vimeo do have community standards, however much of the content that is available can be viewed by any user, not just those of the appropriate age. For this reason it is imperative that parents monitor and are aware of what their children as watching online.

Video Platform Definitions

Launched in May 2005, YouTube allows billions of people to discover, watch and share originally-created videos. YouTube provides a forum for people to connect, inform, and inspire others across the globe and acts as a distribution platform for original content creators and advertisers large and small. YouTube is a Google company. - Source: YouTube

Vimeo is video + you. We put your videos first and give you the best ways to share, discover, and be inspired. Today, millions of people from all around the world enjoy Vimeo, and we’re growing bigger every day. We hope this fun and friendly environment fuels your own creativity and inspires you to contribute to Vimeo in the ways that mean the most to you. - Source: Vimeo

Netflix is the world’s leading Internet television network with over 93 million members in over 190 countries enjoying more than 125 million hours of TV shows and movies per day, including original series, documentaries and feature films. Members can watch as much as they want, anytime, anywhere, on nearly any Internet-connected screen. Members can play, pause and resume watching, all without commercials or commitments. - Source: Netflix

TikTok is an app for making and sharing short videos. The videos are tall, not square, like on Snapchat or Instagram’s stories, but you navigate through videos by scrolling up and down, like a feed, not by tapping or swiping side to side.

Text & Video Messaging

The backbone of Social Media is the relationships that it helps to create and build, and nothing can strengthen a relationship like conversation, which is why apps that allow us to communicate with each other through text, voice, and video will always be around. Even in a world that is obsessed with taking selfies and sharing them with the entire world, the personal conversation is still the most meaningful connection that social media can offer. Though many older users may not agree, texting allows users to communicate complex thoughts and ideas that dramatically impact the relationship between two people. Though words are often shortened to acronyms and the use of the emoji is on the rise, the content of that conversation is still important, and that means that sharing pictures and videos can never replace act of talking to another person.

While the text conversation does allow us to communicate effectively, sometimes we look for a solution that might be a little faster or maybe even a little more personal. That is when we turn to the voice or video conversation.  Obviously the phone allows us to have voice conversations, but there also many apps that give this same functionality, which is great for families who don’t have cell service but do have access to Wireless Internet. Taking it one step further, video chat and calling is one of the most popular forms of communication right now, with apps like Skype and Facetime allowing users to talk to each other, face to face in real time, from anywhere all over the world. Now families can communicate with relatives that live in different places, students can learn remotely, and users can meet and introduce themselves to people without the risk of meeting those individuals in real life. While there can still be risk involved in this form of communication, it is definitely a step in the right direction in a world where meeting people online is becoming more commonplace.

Text & Video Messaging Platform Definitions

Know when messages are delivered and seen. Call across the world for free. Send photos and videos instantly. Send a map of any location. Say it better with stickers. Say, sing or shout your messages. Send money securely and easily. Start group chats with your favorite people. -Source: Messenger

ooVoo lets you video call with up to 12 friends. Send text, picture, and video messages, and lots more. -Source: ooVoo

Kik is a mobile messaging application that can be used on both android and iPhone. The popular app which is free to use is similar to Viber and WhatsApp but has some additional functions that differentiate it. For example, an internal browser, meaning users are encouraged to spend more time within the app.

Discord is a free voice, video, and text chat app that's used by tens of millions of people ages 13+ to talk and hang out with their communities and friends. People use Discord daily to talk about many things, ranging from art projects and family trips to homework and mental health support. It's a home for communities of any size, but it's most widely used by small and active groups of people who talk regularly

Anonymous Sharing

Social Media tends to lean towards users promoting themselves by showing off with pictures, videos, and content that makes their lives look interesting and engaging to other users, however there is growing popularity for apps and sites that allow users to share content while remaining anonymous. There are a couple of reasons that these apps have become popular. First, some of these apps allow users to share things that might be personal or difficult to talk about without having to be identified as the person who is going through that specific situation. This allows other users to reach out in support and gives the users the ability to talk about something difficult with others, however this doesn’t always go as planned. Many times this anonymous sharing allows other users to reply anonymously as well, which means that users looking for comfort and support might still find themselves on the other side of online attacks or harassment.

Secondly, the anonymity of these apps allows users to share information that might get them into trouble without being in fear of facing those consequences. Users post mean, hurtful, or embarrassing things about others, spread rumors and false accusations, or try to create issues between others by posting material that is intended to look like it was posted by another individual. These types of issues typically manifest in smaller, tight-knit settings like schools, so many students are exposed to this type of behavior.

Finally, anonymous sharing has become a platform for hate speech, allowing users to make comments about religion, race, gender, and other sensitive topics in a way that will upset and anger people without the user having fear of being identified as a person with these beliefs. The ability to propagate hateful belief systems online without having to answer for them allows this ideology to spread without consequence, when often comments that are made would result in punishment in a structured setting if the user was identified.

Anonymous Sharing Platform Definitions

Whisper is the largest online community where people share real thoughts and feelings, without identities. We are leading a global movement that believes happiness starts when you get to be your real self. To keep our community safe, we enforce our Golden Rule: Don’t be Mean, Don’t be Gross, and Don’t Use Whisper to Break the Law. -Source: Whisper

Yik Yak
Yik Yak helps you find your herd. Yik Yak is a location-based social network that helps you connect with the people around you. By letting you share news, ask questions, offer support, and interact freely with others who are in the same place at the same time, Yik Yak acts as a springboard for discovering, meeting, and connecting with people in your local community.-Source: Yik Yak

Photo and Video Sharing

Visual content is the king of Social Media right now. Apps that allow users to post pictures and videos are some of the most popular apps in the world, especially for teenagers. In this age group Instagram and Snapchat are the biggest players, each boasting millions of pictures and videos posted and sent daily. Smartphones are increasingly focused on improving the quality of their built-in cameras so that users can take better pictures and videos to share with their social networks. Visual content allows us to share a lot of information with very little effort. A picture can tell people where we are, who we’re with, what we’re doing, and so much more with the click of one button, though many younger users invest much more time into their pictures and videos than one might imagine.

Often teens take innumerable pictures, go through dozens of filters, and try any number of different effects before ever posting a picture to their Social Media account. Visual content allows us to show people the side of our lives that we want them to see without having to worry about those other parts that aren’t so glamorous, but then we have apps like Snapchat that work in almost the opposite fashion. Encouraging quick pictures and videos that disappear after a few moments gives users more freedom to post content that might not be perfect or amazing, but instead shows off more of their true personality. Regardless of whether users are posting meticulously edited pictures to their Instagram account with 5,000 followers or if their posting a 5 second Snapchat video to their 5 best friends, visual content is most likely the way that teens are spending the majority of their time online.

Photo and Video Sharing Platform Definitions

Instagram is a fun and quirky way to share your life with friends through a series of pictures. Snap a photo with your mobile phone, then choose a filter to transform the image into a memory to keep around forever. We’re building Instagram to allow you to experience moments in your friends’ lives through pictures as they happen. We imagine a world more connected through photos. -Source: Instagram

We believe that reinventing the camera represents our greatest opportunity to improve the way people live and communicate. Our products empower people to express themselves, live in the moment, learn about the world, and have fun together. -Source: Snapchat