The Hidden Dangers of Pinterest for Teens

Anne Livingston on Oct 9, 2015

Pinterest logo

Beside Facebook, Pinterest was the only other social network I learned first from my friends not my teenagers. Because of my teens utter lack of interest in Pinterest, I never felt the need to write about it. I was surprised to hear recently from parents about inappropriate photos popping up in Pinterest feeds.

What is Pinterest?

Pinterest is an online bulletin board. It is the online version of ripping a picture of a cute outfit from a magazine and tacking it to a corkboard. On Pinterest, people collect images and pin them to their own boards. Typically, these boards are filled with ideas for recipes, gardening, crafts etc. Like most social networks, people can follow each other, like pins, repin and send each other messages.

Registration is easy. People can sign up using their Facebook, Twitter, Google Account or email. Pinterest does not allow kids under 13. Kids can easily sign up if they lie about their age when registering or already have an underage Facebook profile.

After signing up, teens can select areas they are interested in such as fashion or crafts and start pinning. As far as officially this social network doesn't suppose kids under 13 will be registered, no Pinterest parental controls are implemented there. All Pinterest boards are public by default. Teens can create secret boards that only invited friends can see.

Surprising Pins on Pinterest

I was curious when I heard about people having NSFW (not safe for work) photos popping up in their feed. I jumped on to Pinterest and played around with search terms. What popped up on my feed was fairly tame. Where it got interesting was switching from “interest” to “pinners.” For example, when I looked at Pinners, who posted under sexy, they had a range of pins. Most were underwear shots but a few had nude images and some were a bit more graphic. Teens may follow someone based on one picture but the Pinner’s board could include adult images.

While searching, I also found thinspo or proanorexia boards that were disturbing. I was not surprised that I found them. Online if you look hard enough you can usually find something. However, I was surprised by how many of the pins on these boards came from mainstream publications. Alongside the picture of a girl’s thigh gap were images from Redbook, Vogue and other fashion magazines.

Is Pinterest safe for teens?

Is Pinterest safe for teens?

There's no parental controls on Pinterest

Seeing these images here shows how warped and twisted the media portrays women’s bodies. Fashion ads with their distorted limbs and rail thin bodies fit perfectly among a proanorexia collections of pictures. While this is not a Pinterest problem, it is an opportunity to talk to teens about these deceptive images that appear online and in print.

Pinterest is a fantastic place to find a new recipe or a craft project for a rainy afternoon. It does have some questionable areas. If teens are vigilant and careful with who they follow, they can avoid most of this content. Teens should also know that their profiles, pins and followers are all public.

5 Tips to Help Your Child Stay Safe on Pinterest and Have Fun Pinning

  1. Turn off Google search. Pinterest profiles and boards appear in Google search. Anyone can find their boards and profiles even if they are not on Pinterest. Teens can turn off this function in their settings.
  2. Check first before following. If you look at followers vs. following ratios, most pinners have a you follow me and I will follow you approach. Teens should be more thoughtful and make sure pinners and boards are age appropriate before following.
  3. Create secret boards to share with only friends. On Pinterest, teens can have secret boards that only invited friends can see. Parents may want to encourage younger teens to create these private boards. Parents should still in check in with these boards by asking to see them or having their teen send them an invitation to the board.
  4. Block and report inappropriate pinners. If a teen sees an inappropriate pin or a pinner is harassing them, they can report and/or block them. Reporting and blocking is anonymous on Pinterest.
  5. Do not click on odd links. Some links are fraudulent and may lead to a site with a nasty virus or malware. This includes not only pins but direct messages as well.

Parental controls for Pinterest by Familoop
Monitor your teen activity on Pinterest with Familoop Safeguard

Pinterest is fantastic place for kids to explore hobbies and other interests. It also has areas that kids will want to avoid. Unfortunately, there are no parental controls within Pinterest. Parents can add their own by using Familoop Safeguard. With Familoop, parents can set time limits as well as see their child’s new pins, likes, comments, followers and who follows them. By working together, parents can ensure their child is having fun and keeping clear of inappropriate content.

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