Whether you've heard of Reddit or not, chances are your kids are spending time on it. In some cases—upwards of a couple of hours a day. For those parents who just “got the Facebook” or know “how to Tweeter” it can be quite frustrating as more and more new networks pop up.
Some of the parenting challenges we face now are unprecedented. Controlling TV and desktop computer usage were the primary issues when I grew up. Other issues were things like having your own phone line instead of having to share the house phone with everyone else. My friends and I would argue with our parents over things like having our own TV. Today, eight year-old kids have the entire world in their pockets on their smart phones.
One website Muslim parents need to familiarize themselves with is Reddit.com.
The site is almost literally the front page of the internet. It's a user driven community. Users submit content whether it be photos, videos, links, or their own thoughts. Other users then can 'upvote' or 'downvote' the content. The idea is that the content when you first load Reddit is the content which is the hottest and most upvoted by the community at that particular moment in time.
In addition to this, within each post of content, users are able to leave comments which are also upvoted and downvoted by other users. The community is entirely open and anyone (and everyone) can join.
With such an open network, the obvious positives and negatives come into play. The site can be an invaluable resource, but it can also be a huge source of fitnah as well.
I will try to provide here a general breakdown of how some parts of Reddit work, and what Muslim parents can do to make sure their children use it responsibly.
I can't advocate a specific age or how much to let your children use this site. But it is important for parents to be aware of it, and how to use it. As with any other network, such as Facebook, it all comes down to open dialogue with parents. For every single tip given below, there is a way around it if a person is driven enough. The hope is that parents can have an honest dialogue about the site, how their kids use it, and how to protect them as well.
To familiarize yourself with the site on a basic level, read its Wikipedia entry. To learn it more, you simply need to visit and use it.
How Reddit is Structured
Reddit itself is composed of various sub-reddits. These are denoted like this: /r/subreddit. Examples would include:
When you load the front page, Reddit collates from a default list of subreddits. This normally includes pictures, videos, politics, funny, and so on. One of the most popular subreddits is /r/atheism. At the time of writing this post, the top entry in /r/atheism is a post entitled “The one thing as an atheist that pisses me off about Dubai” and links to this photo.
Subreddits encompass every topic imaginable. Think of it as an index of the entire internet. You can get tech support, look at funny pictures, read insightful articles, spend 4 hours looking at pictures of cats, debate religion, ask Barack Obama a question in real time, relationship advice, and of course browse material of an adult variety.
It's a place where every conceivable subculture of any kind has a home.
Posting on Reddit
Adhere to the upmost convictions of common sense.
Monitor it to make sure your children are not posting any personal information, or posting anything that may lead to personal information. This might include posting a picture with your license plate number in the background, or leaving a passing comment about something specific in your locale. Always err on the side of excessive caution when posting anything.
It's ok to post and leave comments, but just understand that interaction here is the same as any general public interaction. Except here, people have the freedom to anonymously hide behind a computer screen. Be aware that even where useful content is concerned, comments may be vulgar or vitriolic. In some cases, you may read an insightful comment, but it is made by a user with a vulgar username.
Modify Reddit Preferences
Create an account. Having an account will allow you to customize settings and filters for the site.
Modify your preferences.
- UNCHECK the box next to “I am over eighteen years old and willing to view adult content”
- CHECK the box next to “label posts that are not safe for work (NSFW) [NSFW normally indicates adult content - it denotes items which are "Not Safe For Work" in the sense that it's not something you can view with others around in the workplace].
- UNCHECK the box for “make my votes public”
- CHECK the box for “don't allow search engines to index my user profile”
You need to make sure to do this on whichever account your child is actually using.
Once you have an account, you can choose to subscribe to and unsubscribe from certain subreddits. So for example, you can subscribe to /r/nba or /r/apple (for Apple products and news), and unsubscribe from subreddits like /r/atheism or /r/WTF or /r/trees [a subreddit dedicated to marijuana].
Even when you do this though, that content may still be accessed by visiting /r/all [which pulls from all subreddits regardless of your subscription].
Downloading RES [Reddit Enhancement Suite] on your computer is essential. It gives you additional filters that aren't otherwise available. RES will let you filter out NSFW links as well as completely filter out subreddits that you consider inappropriate.
Also be aware that there are 3rd party apps for Reddit for smartphones as well. Make sure to go through the preferences there and modify them as needed.
Checking Reddit has become part of my daily routine. The front page of the internet sentiment holds true. Instead of cracking open a newspaper, or even checking sites like CNN and ESPN, I now simply visit Reddit in the morning to see what's new.
When it comes to parenting, it's just another piece in the larger challenge of parenting in the information age. Unprecedented access to such resources requires even stronger relationships with our kids. It requires open and honest dialogue. It requires teaching them about the good and the bad, and giving them an informed explanation about what restrictions there are to usage of certain websites and why.
Putting filters and internet controls without this dialogue will not accomplish anything. Children will just quickly find a way around it.
*You can view the comments for this article on Reddit as well at this link to get a feel for how it works.