Reddit bills itself as the “front page of the Internet.” It is one of the most visited sites in the world. It’s particularly popular with a younger demographic. If you’re a parent unfamiliar with Reddit, here’s what you should know.
What Is Reddit?
Reddit is a content aggregator and discussion site. Users, often called “redditors,” post links or original content to the site where they can upvote or downvote content they like or dislike. Users can also discuss the content and comments can also be voted on. Popular submissions and comments float to the top, unpopular ones sink to the bottom.
Reddit is broken up into smaller boards, called “subreddits.” Subreddits focus on particular topics. Large and self-explanatory ones include r/news, r/books, and r/canada. Other subreddits are devoted to more niche interests, such as r/fallout, which is devoted to the Fallout game franchise, or r/moviedetails, which involves movie fans pointing out easter eggs, trivia, and interesting details in movies. Some subreddits are impenetrable and weird for anyone not neck deep in Internet culture, such as r/birdswitharms, a collection of pictures of birds with arms, or r/trebuchetmemes, a collection of memes about superior medieval siege equipment.
Individual subreddits are run by moderators, who are unpaid volunteers. The site is run by administrators, who are paid by Reddit.
The largest cyberbullying problem on Reddit is harassment. Due to the site’s sheer size, disagreements are common and some users respond with harassment campaigns against users they dislike for whatever reason. Harassment can take the form of public comments or private messages.
If your child experiences this, your first step is to document the harassment by screencapturing the harassment. You may need evidence later and it’s possible for the harasser to delete their comments.
The next step is to report the harassment to the moderators. To report a comment, select the Report button under the comment. To report a link or post, click the Report button under the link; note that you’ll have to be on the discussion page for said link. To report a private message, select the Report button under the message. Note that for private messages, you can also select Block User to prevent that user from sending you messages in the future. It’s better to block someone harassing you than to respond to them.
If this doesn’t solve your issue, you can send a message to the site administrators. Scroll to the bottom of the Reddit homepage and select Contact Us, which is under Help. From here, select the option Message the Admins.
Another cyberbullying issue on Reddit is toxic communities. Some communities are inherently toxic and promote cyberbullying. For example, a now-banned community called r/fatpeoplehate was all about posting images and stories about obese people and saying nasty things about them. Sometimes this spilled over into the real world and users harassed real people. The toxicity of the community eventually got it banned by the site administrators.
Other toxic communities pop up from time to time. Eventually they get banned, but this sometimes takes time. It’s important to talk to your child or teenager about what kind of content they’re viewing online and help them avoid online communities that promote bullying, harassment, and other bad online behaviour.
As with any large social network, Reddit users sometimes engage in Internet vigilantism. An early example of vigilantism on the site involved a user named BadgerMatt, a kidney donor, who was attempting to raise money for cancer research in his father-in-law’s name. Users accused him of scamming and then the online harassment and death threats started. As with many cases of online vigilantism, the vigilantes had got it wrong. BadgerMatt wasn’t scamming, everything he’d posted was the truth, and the entire episode was unnecessary.
It’s important to discuss the dangers of online vigilantism with your child or teen. If they see or hear something that they think should be punished, there’s nearly always an appropriate authority who can do the job better. For more, read our article on the problems with online vigilantism.
The Bottom Line
This post shouldn’t lead you to believe that Reddit is an inherently dangerous place. We’ve focused on cyberbullying on Reddit because this is a cyberbullying blog, but it’s important to note that most users have perfectly good experiences on the site. The best way to understand it is to use it yourself. If you’re interested, perhaps you can start with r/mommit and r/daddit, two subreddits devoted to parenting.