Just when we think we’ve got our heads around Snapchat and TikTok, there’s a new social media kid on the block. Parler launched in 2018 but has only really gathered steam this year due to a record number of downloads in the wake of the presidential election. According to the app’s website, it’s “the world’s town square” and a place to “speak freely and express yourself openly, without fear of being ‘deplatformed’ for your views.”
Of all the other social media networks, Parler’s interface is probably most similar to Twitter: users posts text or images, which others can then comment on. They can also “echo” the original post, which is just like a retweet or repost. It’s available for free download on iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad and Android. So, what do parents need to know about this platform?
It’s Easy To Get On
First of all, it’s fairly simple for younger kids to get into the network. Although Parler comes with a 17-plus age rating in Apple’s App Store and on Google Play, there are no safeguards stopping younger kids from joining.
Parler Has No Strict Community Guidelines
But what’s more concerning is that experts agree that the app probably isn’t even suitable for older teenagers. Parler’s unique selling proposition is that it’s a fairly uncensored platform, without the strict community guidelines of its competitors.
“Because of this, pretty much anything goes,” Titania Jordan, chief parenting officer of parental-control app Bark and author of “Parenting in a Tech World,” told Parents. “Think of it like a social media Wild West.”
Although Parler’s community guidelines prohibit spam, terrorism, intellectual property theft, doxing, defamation, sexual child abuse content and criminal solicitation, and there are policies against “fighting words” and “threats of harm,” there are no set rules against hate speech.
Parler’s community guidelines note, “We prefer to leave decisions about what is seen and who is heard to each individual. In no case will Parler decide what will content be removed or filtered, or whose account will be removed, on the basis of the opinion expressed within the content at issue.”
Parler Attracts Extremists
Last month, ParentsTogether, a family-centered nonprofit organization with more than 2.5 million members in the United States, issued an urgent warning that Parler is unsuitable for children because it could potentially expose young users to exploitation, abuse and recruitment for racist violence. In a press release, the organization urged parents to check their kids’ devices to ensure they haven’t installed Parler.
“If your child has installed Parler, we strongly recommend that you delete their account and the app,” it said.
ParentsTogether highlighted examples of incitements to violence and calls for a civil war, hate speech, antisemitism and Islamophobia, disinformation and a violent extremist user base.
“Parler’s prominent users include a who’s who of white supremacists, violent extremists and conspiracy theorists, many of whom have been banned from mainstream social media platforms for their bigotry, lies and incitements to violence,” warned the organization.
Content Is A Concern
For parents, Parler may feel especially problematic because its audience engages in censorship-free content that can skew political and sexual realities in inappropriate ways for young people.
Common Sense Media reviewer Chris Morris rates Parler two out of five stars, summing the app up by describing it this way: “Twitter clone for conservatives promotes conspiracy sources.”
And a review on Protect Young Eyes said that the platform should be reserved for adults. It noted the “strong conservative base” but said Parler’s content won’t be limited to right-wing viewpoints.
“Parler is definitely going to be a spot for free but also some extreme thinking — from ALL sides,” the review said. “Conservatives might have arrived first but all ideologies have now joined with other views.”
Porn is another concern for parents. As Protect Young Eyes points out, Parler’s default settings are to allow all pornographic content, although the NSFW (not safe for work) filter can be turned off (Profile – Moderation – Settings). However, the reviewers found that enabling the NSFW filter left many inappropriate hashtags remaining.
The bottom line from Josh Nelson, campaign director for ParentsTogether? “This is not a safe place for kids.”