Sexual Health D&G

facebook home | clinics | glossary | resources | emergency contraception



What is social media?

Refers to the means of interaction (via Internet-based applications) between people in which they create, share, and/or exchange information and ideas in virtual communities and networks. It is now a popular method of communication for all ages particularly the younger generation who are digital natives. It is open to abuse e.g. cyber-bullying and online sexual predators. Internet safety has been promoted within schools and young people are encouraged to ensure their profiles are private where possible.

Advertising on social media - has received some backlash due to links with privacy and the use of internet 'cookies' to monitor what you search for and view on the web. Many advertisements have been criticised as one of the main reasons for social media being damaging to self esteem and body image, for example, the marketing of extreme dieting products and techniques to young women and the marketing of 'hook up' apps and sites based on location to young men.

Summary of Popular Sites

Some of the popular social networking sites and relevant features. SMART phones allow intersite connections i.e. most of the social media sites interlink e.g. a twitter account will link to the facebook page.

Facebook was founded in February 2004 and allows anyone who claims to be at least 13 years old to become a registered user of the website. Users are 'expected' to use their true identity although a user can create any profile they wish (including duplicating someone else's). They can create profiles with photos, lists of personal interests, contact information, and other personal information. Users can communicate with friends and other users (including strangers depending on the individual privacy settings), through private or public messages and a chat feature. They can also create and join interest groups and "like pages" some of which are maintained by organizations as a means of advertising. You can 'check in' to geographical locations and if your mobile phone has its location setting switched on FB can automatically log where you are when posting. Current crazes include

Twitter (launched in March 2006) is an online social networking and microblogging service that enables users to send and read "tweets", which are text messages limited to 140 characters. Registered users can read and post tweets but unregistered users can only read them. Twitter has a private message feature but you have to both be following each other for it to be available. If your mobile phone has its location setting switched on FB can automatically log where you are when posting.

Flickr (launched in March 2006) is an image hosting and video hosting website, owned by Yahoo! Inc. In addition to being a popular website for users to share and embed personal photographs, the service is widely used by photo researchers and by bloggers to host images that they embed in blogs and social media.

Tumblr (launched Feb 2007) is a microblogging platform and social networking website owned by Yahoo! Inc. The service allows users to post multimedia and other content to a short-form blog. Users can follow other users' blogs, as well as make their blogs private. Users can also question anonymously. The content posted and shared is monitored far less than sites like Facebook leaving the opportunity for violent, sexually explicit and inappropriate material to be shared.

Yik Yak is a social media smartphone application launched in 2013 and available foriOSand Android. It allows people anonymously to create and view "Yaks" within a 5-mile radius thus potentially making it more intimate and relevant for people reading the posts. All users have the ability to contribute to the stream by writing, responding, and "voting up" or "voting down" (liking or disliking) yaks. It has the potential for online bulling and abuse and currently in Dumfries it has become very 'bitchy'. previously Ask Jeeves (launched on June 16, 2010) is a Latvia-based social networking website where users can ask other users questions, with the option of anonymity. The site has become associated with numerous instances of cyberbullying, some of which led to suicides, particularly in teens. The site has courted controversy by not having workable reporting, tracking or parental control processes, which have become the norm on other social media websites. Several major companies have since severed links with

Instagram (launched in October 2010) is an online photo-sharing, video-sharing and social networking service that enables its users to take pictures and videos, apply digital filters to them, and share them on a variety of social networking services, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Flickr and is supported by SMART phones. Instagram now has a private message feature and users are also able to send pictures or short videos lasting for up to 15 seconds to 1 person or a group of people directly. It is common to hashtag pictures to get an increased number of likes. The collection of likes has become a recognised sign of popularity and vice versa. You can 'check in' to geographical locations which allows viewers to know where you are.

Tinder was launched in May 2011 and is a matchmaking mobile app, which connects with users' Facebook profiles to provide pictures and ages for other users to view. Using GPS technology, users can set a specific radius, and they will have the option to match with anyone that is within that distance. Tinder analyses users to match potential candidates who are most likely to be compatible based on geographical location, number of mutual friends and common interests. Based on the results of potential candidates, the app allows the user to anonymously like or reject them by swiping or tapping. If two users like each other then it results in a "match" and Tinder introduces the two users and opens a chat. Tinder now has a feature picture where you can upload a picture for 24 hours and all your "matches" can view it as much as they want (similar to snapchat)

Although the app has been a success, Tinder has been criticized extensively for its "appearance based match-making process". In February 2014, security researchers in New York found a flaw which made it possible to find users' precise locations for between 40 and 165 days, without any public notice from the company. This has now been resolved.

Snapchat (launched in September 2011) is a photo messaging app available on most SMART phones. Using the app, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. These sent photographs and videos are known as "Snaps". Users set a time limit for how long recipients can view their Snaps ranging from 1 to 10 seconds, after which they will be hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from the Snapchat server. Users are informed by text whenever one of their snaps has been viewed or not, and whether it has been 'screenshot' or not. It is possible for the user to bypass this mechanism, for example, taking a picture of the phone with another camera, or by disabling the notification function or running the Snapchat application in an emulator will bypass all restrictions. You can frequently see youngsters taking 'selfies' and snap chatting them to their friends.

There has been recent press coverage reporting the upload of a large number of stolen Snapchat photos to the internet. These images have apparently been taken from a third party site '' which appears to have been hacked. '' enables users to save Snapchat pictures rather than see them disappear but in doing so saves the images on its own servers.

A hashtag is a word or a phrase prefixed with the symbol #. It is a form of data tag. Short messages on microblogging and social networking services such as Twitter or Instagram may be tagged by putting "#" before key words, either as they appear in a sentence, or appended to it. Hashtags provide a means of grouping such messages, since one can search for the hashtag and get the set of messages that contain it e.g. #naked or #gay. Hashtags in instagram are used to group photos and are a way to get more 'likes'. Hashtags can also be used before certain words to accentuate feelings etc.

Facial recognition technology allows users to put names to the faces of people in photographs, and to then find other pictures of the same individual. Apps can allow you to find photos and to tag them as well as mixing and matching facial recognition across photo sources, including Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Picasa, and more

BlackBerry Messenger (BBM) is an instant messenger application that allows messaging (and videos on newer phones) between BlackBerry users. They use the BlackBerry PIN system, so communication was only possible between BlackBerry devices until 2013. Newer versions allow the use of QR codes to add other users. It is common for young teenagers to promote their PIN on their own facebook page or ask friends to disseminate it for them.

Kik Messenger (launched in 2010) also called Kik, is an instant messenger application (app) available free of charge on most mobile operating systems for anyone claiming to be age 13 plus. It is modelled after Blackberry messenger and is used to transmit and receive messages, photos, videos, sketches, mobile web-pages, and other content. Kik is known for its features for preserving users' anonymity, such as allowing users to register without providing a telephone number, and preventing users from being located on the service (including by the company itself) through any information other than their chosen username. Kik Messenger has drawn controversy due to its reported involvement in a number of incidents of child exploitation. The app has been criticized as unsafe for minors due to its anonymity features and allegedly weak parental control mechanisms.

Oovoo (Launched in 2006) - allows registered users to communicate through free instant messaging, voice, and video chat with up to twelve locations simultaneously. Users cannot send pictures or videos through the app, there are privacy settings (something which other video calling apps do not have) and location is not shown to other users. Ooovoo appeals to young people as it is one of the few ways in which to have 'facetime' with large groups from wherever they are.

Catfishing is a colloquial term now used when a person deceptively creates an online profile for the purpose of stalking / grooming others. It can also be a way for some online users to explore their sexual identities.

GPS navigation applications for mobile phones include online and off-line navigation applications. This can be used for navigation and many SMART phones have features which give a constant read out of distance or time to get back to 'base' or other frequented venues. On purchase of a phone one can request that this feature is switched off. Because of the time taken to load, many people prefer to have it switched on constantly. This means that others can see where the individual is when posts are made or can build up a pattern of their movement over certain days.

Find your phone setting / App - most smart phones come with an inbuilt 'find your phone setting' so that you can locate your phone when lost by typing your number into a friends phone (and inputting your phone ID). You can then locate your phone. This would also mean that another person can track your movements if they know your phone ID e.g. if the phone has been given as a gift (common in grooming etc)

Meet-ups - It is common to arrange 'meet-ups' with groups you have met on the internet e.g. through Tumblr, and the details of the arrangements can then appear on feeds of friends on interlinked social networking sites. This has potential for a sexual predator to arrange a chance meeting with a person he is grooming or 'following'.

Sexting is when someone sends or receives a sexually explicit text, image or video on their mobile phone, usually in a text message. Surveys reveals 60 per cent of young people have been asked for a sexual image or video and 40 per cent have created an image or video of themselves. One of the terms used is Dick pic or tit pic - which is a request to send a photograph of breasts or genitals.

'Zipit' is ChildLine's first app which provides tools to defuse the pressures of sending self-generated explicit images or videos. The free app offers witty images to send instead of explicit ones, advice for how to engage in safe chat, what to do if you feel threatened or if an image becomes public, and a direct link to call ChildLine.

Chatrooms - there are a variety of popular chatrooms that young people are currently using that offer the opportunity to talk to complete strangers. This can allow genuine friendships to develop but are equally open to abuse

Sites used in D&G by gay, bisexual men & women

What to do if a young person loses control of a sexual image?