Red-What?

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:

  • /r/islam
  • /r/nba
  • /r/atheism
  • /r/funny
  • /r/politics
  • /r/movies

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].

Additional Apps

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.

Parting Advice

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.  

 

17 Responses

  1. Hijab

    Masha Allah..Well said…..
    it was really influencing. This was a great post and to go in the right path. Now a days every one spend his most of time on the internet it can really help people.

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    • Mww-m

      Whoa, sister, your kids should not be on 4chan. That’s the cesspool of the internet

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      • Hena Zuberi

        Oh they are not :) I just heard about it when i watched the documentary on Anonymous. Thanks for the heads up though. Salaams.

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  2. mww_m

    Here’s some good subreddits:

    r/askscience
    r/askhistorians
    r/truereddit
    r/science
    r/technology
    r/depthhub

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  3. H

    I think another worthwhile thing to mention regarding Reddit is that it’s very easy to let it consume you and to take it very seriously. There are many trolls whose only aim is to get under other people’s skin, and there are a lot of other people who really don’t have anything useful to say but say it anyway, and so there is a high nonsense quotient on Reddit. A good analogy a parent might make in order to encourage their child to curb Reddit use is to compare it to real life conversations – how much time does one spend every day standing at street corners with different random groups of people and participate in their random topics of discussion? If that’s considered a total waste of time, then so should this.

    I’m really not a fan of parents controlling things for their children or laying down blanket rules, but Reddit is one of those things that can really compromise a young person’s productivity (and future!) if they spend large amounts of time on it. Use whatever leverage you have to curb usage if your son/daughter is prone to abuse Reddit to the point that other things in life suffer.

    The last thing I want to say is that Reddit is a place where there is no sanctity for anything. For a Muslim, especially a young one, it is a place where their faith will be constantly attacked, and not even in a sophisticated way. Even careless one-liners can sow doubt or make one question one’s beliefs. Since every idea is equal it’s easy to lose sight of what we hold to be right and wrong. You wouldn’t want random (dumb) people having your child’s ear in real life – why would you want it to happen on the Internet? I realize everything I said in this paragraph could apply to the Internet as a whole, but Reddit is like a microcosm of the worst the Internet has to offer, and the wider idea of the Internet still has much good to offer without attendant dangers.

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  4. Just A Person

    There are some great subreddits that everyone can enjoy, including kids
    r/aww
    r/funny
    f/facepalm
    r/iama
    r/askreddit
    r/askscience

    Those are all great subreddits

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  5. Oobang

    What a well-written, measured article. Was directed here from reddit. Good job.

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  6. Kate

    These tips for parental control are acceptable for young children, who shouldn’t even be interested in Reddit. But a person will eventually become old enough to find all of what you try to hide from them and figure out how to go around it. You don’t need to know the password to make changes on a Reddit account. You don’t even need an email to start a Reddit account, just a username and password. And most third party apps support multiple accounts. All these tips are silly and intrusive.

    Reddit is just like real life. It’s filled with people who have different beliefs and respect others, and then people who don’t care and disrespect everyone.

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  7. Aly Balagamwala | DiscoMaulvi

    The policing part of parenting seems to be growing every generation!
    Thank you for this guide. I myself while an active Twitter and Facebook user have not used Reddit. I think the information overload and potential to engulf one completely is the reason.

    I like this quote from H’s comment above:
    ” how much time does one spend every day standing at street corners with different random groups of people and participate in their random topics of discussion? If that’s considered a total waste of time, then so should this.”

    Seem like a relevant point. :)

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  8. Abu Milk Sheikh

    R/islam is a haven for ignorants, deviants, hypocrites and apostates passing off all manner of baatil as legitimate Islamic belief. The few voices that speak for Ahl as-Sunnah wa-l Jama’ah are marginalized as extremists. The subreddit stands as a microcosm of the Ummah at large, full of ignorance, disobedience (to Allah) and deviance, at it is a depressing sight to behold.

    Some of the deviant/heretical sects have their own subreddits too, like the Qadianis, Shia and Progressives, where their promote their propaganda and generally do the da’wah of Shaytan. They are also given free reign to run amuck on r/islam. Any Muslim that tries to inform the community of their deviance and heresy is marginalized by the jaahil masses.

    Apostates have their own subreddit where they lie day and night about Islam, and it is frequented by atheists, liberals and islamophobes to get “unbiased” information. They even managed to incite r/atheism into “waging war” on Islam and Muslims, as childish and pathetic as that sounds. This resulted in the famously cultured and refined r/atheism community making lots of meme’s, roflposters, cursing the Messenger of Allah, sallallahu alayhi wa sallam, and other kinds of filth.

    There are also dozens of subreddits devoted to pornography of every type imaginable.

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  9. TheAtheist:D

    hey there, just wanted to say great article! Most religious articles about reddit are hating on /r/atheism, which brought me here. Thanks!

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  10. Dawud Israel

    Salam,

    I don’t think there is any way to deal successfully with reddit. Its too much at once. I went on there and you wanna explore all the categories. Also, reddit is like the church of global atheism…and its full of snarky trolls. And as far as productivity is concerned I don’t think Muslim forums weren’t very productive either…so reddit is kind of a far cry.

    I tried to do some dawah on there but I dunno…Most of the Muslim community is now on Facebook. Twitter is good too.

    di.

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  11. Nauman

    Good article explaining how reddit works, but at the same time, it shows how little we can do to effectively protect ourselves and our children from obscene material online. What prevents the child from creating another account? But I really like that we at least have someone helping create a better understanding of what all is out there that one needs to be aware of. The awareness itself can be helpful and somewhat assist in prevention. Jazak Allah Khair!

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  12. RCHOUDH

    Thanks for explaining about Reddit. I never visited it and don’t plan to because it doesn’t sound like anything worthy of my time. But as a parent I realize I have to be one step ahead with regards to the latest internet craze.

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  13. HPUnited

    Every serious group and movement – not just the Muslims – have complained about Reddit.

    Redditors are notorious all round the internet for combining cowardice and snark. They will water down any important movement/religion of any kind, and dismiss any genuinely practicing and active member with smug condescention.

    The damage done by feminist crazies to the West has prompted a men’s rights movement. r/mensrights is made up of wimps seeking to cooperate with feminists who hate them and at the same time shunning “society’s expectations of how men should be manly.” The lame and dismissive “misogyny” is in common use at that craphole.” The subreddit has drawn fire from real activists who actually do something for a living.

    Redditors may very well be the most egotistic and in turn the most snobbish people on the internet. Go to the front page and read the comments for yourself. Absolute drivel.

    A useless and non-vocational arts degree is detrimental to one’s mind: it makes an educated idiot, a pedantic snob (read: hipster) and a Reddit user.

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