What Parents Need to Know about Pinterest

pinterest iconBeside Facebook, Pinterest was the only other social network I learned about from my friends not my teenagers. Because of my teens utter lack of interest in Pinterest, I never felt the need to write a Parent’s Guide. Recently, I heard from parents who shared some concerns about Pinterest. I decided to take a closer look.

Pinterest is an idea 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 online corkboards. These boards are typically 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.

pinterest feed

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 that, teens can select areas they are interested in such as fashion or crafts and start pinning. People pin images to their boards. All Pinterest boards are public by default. Teens can create secret boards that only invited friends can see.pinterest profile

While on Pinterest, I have never had an inappropriate picture pop up. Granted, I follow mostly tech, education and parenting boards. The lack of an occasional sexy picture is not too surprising.

I was curious when I heard about people having these type of photos pop up in their feed. After 4 years of reviewing apps, I am adept at finding inappropriate content. I jumped on Pinterest and played around with my usual search terms. What popped up on my feed was fairly tame. For example, when I searched “sexy” this was what I saw.

pinterest sexy search

Where it got interesting was switching from interest to pinners. Pinners, who posted under sexy, had a variety of pics. Most were sexy underwear shots but a few had nude images and some were a bit more graphic.

pinterest sexy pinners

This is how an inappropriate photo could pop up in a Pinterest feed. Teens may follow someone based on one picture but the pinner’s board could include adult images. Teens and adults should check out a pinner’s board before following them.

While searching, I also found thinspo or proanorexia boards which were a bit more disturbing. I wasn’t 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.

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.

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 steer clear of this content. Teens should also know that their profiles, pins, followers and who they follow are all public.

Before creating a board, parents should talk to their teens about how to share smart on Pinterest.

  • pinterest settingsTurn off Google search. Pinterest profiles and boards appear in google search. Anyone can see their boards and profiles even if they are not on Pinterest. Teens can turn off this function in their settings.
  • Keep private information off public profile. Teens should keep their private information off their public profile including their usernames to private accounts such as snapchat or kik.
  • 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 these pinners and boards are age appropriate before following.
  • 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. If so, parents should also review expectations around checking in. During a phone check, parents should ask about secret boards or have their younger teen send them an invitation to the board.
  • 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.
  • 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.

For more information on Pinterest, here are some more helpful tips. If you have questions about other apps, check out my parenting guides.


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