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What’s that app? The social media apps your kids are using

With social media moving so fast, it’s no surprise that kids are using a wide range of applications that we aren’t familiar with. According to Ofcom, ‘just over half of 5-15s used social media sites or apps, rising to 87% of 12-15s’. We’ve got everything you need to know about the most popular applications.

What apps do our kids use the most?

For this article we used Ofcom’s Children and parents: media use and attitudes report 2020/21. On the subject of social media, Ofcom states that, ‘Children used a wide range of sites and apps for their social media activities, continuing the diversification we have seen in previous years. Among the older children (12-15s), Instagram was the app most likely to be used (66%), followed by Snapchat (58%)’

Additionally, according to the study by Ofcom in regard to video sharing platforms, ‘No single platform was used by a majority of children for posting or sharing content; similar proportions (around a quarter) of 5-15s said they used TikTok, YouTube, Instagram, or Snapchat for posting or sharing content.’


Instagram is a free-to-access social media app which prioritises photo posting and sharing. It also allows for video sharing, although the videos have to be less than 15 seconds long. You can also stream live using Instagram Live.

This application allows users to connect with friends and celebrities, and has a direct message function. Instagram also has a disappearing message function, where a message can be viewed once by the recipient before it vanishes. 

According to the terms of service, users should be 13 years old to sign up; however, there is no age verification process. Although Instagram states that it has a ‘no-nudity’ policy, sexual content is as prevalent on this app as it is on others.


TikTok is a free-to-access social network app which focuses on short form videos of up to 10 minutes in length; however, the majority are shorter than this. Live streams are also commonplace on TikTok.

The application allows users to connect with friends and celebrities, and also allows for direct messaging. TikTok says that explicit content is not permitted on the platform, but it is present and viewed without being specifically searched for.

According to the terms of service, users over 13 are able to use the app without any restrictions. TikTok introduced ‘family safety mode’ in 2020 which allows parents to turn on ‘restricted mode’. This attempts to filter out inappropriate content and turns off direct messaging.


YouTube is a video sharing platform, which allows for live streaming, long form and short form content. There are a wide range of genres including gaming, education, celebrity, news, beauty and vlogging (video blogging). 

Although the site states that it does not promote inappropriate content, explicit content including violence and sexual imagery is prevalent. Parents can set up a supervised Google account for their child, which allows for more parental control options. 

YouTube Kids is a ‘child-friendly’ version of YouTube, which features individual user profiles and a timer which limits how much time your kids spend on the app. Adverts are very targeted on YouTube Kids, but you can sign up to YouTube Premium to get rid of these.


Snapchat is a messaging app which allows users to connect with friends and followers using pictures and videos (termed ‘snaps’ within the application). These are designed to disappear after they have been viewed; however, although photos disappear in the app, they can easily be screen shotted by the user.

Snapchat allows for direct messaging and group messaging. Snapchat also has a ‘Snap Map’ feature which allows you to display photos on a map of your location. This can be viewed by anyone using Snapchat.

Snapchat states that you must be 13 to use the application; however, there is no age verification process. Inappropriate imagery can easily be shared on Snapchat, despite the fact that it states that they prohibit accounts that promote or distribute pornographic content.

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