While the likes of Ivanka Trump and Ted Cruz — and those who love them — have been joining the social media platform Parler in droves, particularly since Donald Trump lost the election, a parents group is sounding the alarm of the dangers it presents for children and teens. The very reason the app is popular with the right — that no one censors its posts, not even those from violent, racist, antisemitic extremists — are why it could prey on young audiences.
“Parents should know that due to Parler’s dangerous combination of an extremist user base and almost non-existent moderation of content, hate speech, incitements to violence and disinformation about the election results are pervasive on the platform,” ParentsTogether Action, a parent-led advocacy group, said in a post last week. “ParentsTogether urges all parents of children under age 18 to immediately check their kids’ phones and tablets to ensure that their children have not installed Parler. If your child has installed Parler, we strongly recommend that you delete their account and the app.”
We’re not just talking about pro-Trump posts here. Posts on Parler from self-described ProudBoys members and other white nationalist movements are urging others to start a civil war by murdering Democrats. ParentsTogether has also cited anti-Islamic and anti-Semitic posts on the platform, making it all the more ironic that Ivanka Trump joined the site last week.
The growing popularity of the app is enough to get younger people’s attention as it shows up on top-selling charts. While the Apple store rates it as 17+, Google Play has it at just 13+, and the app itself does not require users to disclose their age when they sign up.
“When kids download Parler — and the Google Play store unfortunately makes it easy — they are in danger of exploitation, abuse, and radicalization, as well as violent extremist recruitment,” said Justin Ruben, co-founder of ParentsTogether, said in a press release.
This is an important warning for all parents to heed, even if you think your children would never be tempted by hate speech. Kids, by nature, long for connection with other kids, and extremist groups have a long, long history of knowing just how to lure in the loneliest among them from right under our noses.
What’s more, Parler’s lack of professional moderators may mean child predators can slip through and target young users as well. Freedom from censorship has a place in society, but so does protecting our children from anyone who wants to manipulate their minds or their bodies.
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