Experts in digital safety
When you’re young, it’s not always as easy as it seems to find common ground with others and make new friendships. If your interests are niche, or in some cases, just seen as plain weird by your peers, who do you talk to them about? Community app Picnic is designed to do just that: Bring young people together over the same interests and hobbies. But is Picnic really safe for kids? And are there risks that they need to know about?
What is the Picnic app?
Picnic is a community-based social platform which lets you talk about shared interests, upload fun photos, videos, and other media, and connect with other people who love the same things you do.
Developed by Amber Technologies Global, Inc, the free app already has over a million downloads on the Google Play Store. Its makers state that they designed Picnic to be “a safe, cool place where you can connect with others, share information, hang out, and have a good time.”
How does Picnic work?
When first downloading the Picnic app, you’re encouraged to select from a wide range of interests, like animals, TikTok, gacha games, Roblox, crochet, or fanfiction. Most of the interests suggested are popular with younger kids and teens.
Once you’ve entered a range of interests, you’ll head to the main Picnic screen, where you can:
- Browse fan and hobby communities
- Upload pictures, links, videos, or text posts
- Comment on uploaded media
- Explore other people’s uploads on their profile feed
- Chat one-on-one or in a group with other Picnic users
Each community has its own “Circle Chat”, where anyone is free to enter and send messages. Picnic also rewards engagement, promoting your content to others the more you use the app, and showing more relevant content as you engage in particular communities.
Is Picnic app safe?
Picnic is an app designed for younger users, and it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get any enjoyment out of the app if you’re not a teen or tween. In testing, we found that most users seemed to be around the ages of 11 and 12, but did come across kids as young as 6 messaging others in chatrooms.
Chatting with strangers online comes with a specific set of risks, especially for young kids. Circle Chats and comment sections on Picnic could expose kids to:
- Cyberbullying, toxicity, and nasty comments
- Predators and online grooming
- Inappropriate and horror-themed content
- Conversations of a sexual nature
- Doxxing of personal information revealed on the app
Kids were also frequently posting pictures of themselves in “face reveals”, uploading a picture of their face to a public feed like a Circle Chat. As Circle Chats are not closed off, anyone with a Picnic account can access these spaces, meaning there’s no telling where these “face reveal” pictures could end up.
How old do you have to be to use the Picnic app?
On the Apple Store, Picnic is rated as 9+, while on the Google Play Store, the app is rated as Teen, as it offers user interaction.
How can I make Picnic safer for my kids?
Ultimately, it’s very difficult to manage online conversations in community chats that your kids might be having. With so many new apps and trends to keep an eye on, your child could be using a new app or creating a new account online from one day to the next. A parental control app like Qustodio can be helpful to keep track of the apps your child uses, sending you an alert every time your child downloads a new one.
When installing a new app, particularly one that lets your kids connect with strangers or be social online, it’s a good idea to download it to your own device first. This way, you can check if you’re comfortable with your child using it, discover the pros and the cons, and see how they can report potential issues.
If you decide to let your child use Picnic and engage in online chats, first they’ll need a good understanding of what netiquette means:
- Being kind and respectful to other users
- Remembering there is a person behind any username they meet online
- Following the same behavior standards they’d follow in real life
- Respecting other people’s privacy and personal information
- Creating an online persona that reflects their offline one – what happens on the internet is permanent, so it’s important for kids to understand that what they say and upload could have negative consequences later down the line.
Qustodio’s final advice on Picnic
At first glance, Picnic seems like a relatively tame space for kids to talk about interests and connect with others who like the same things they do.
The problem, just like with any social community-based app, is that it’s highly likely that kids will run into strangers that make them feel uncomfortable, read toxic comments, or be sent inappropriate messages during their time on the app. In our research, we found kids as young as 6 using Picnic. Kids this age would be fully unequipped to deal with stranger interaction online, and the risks that come along with it.
Each and every child is different, so there’s no “right” age for them to use Picnic or other online communities, but we’d recommend sticking to the app’s guidelines of 13+. Ultimately, we’d recommend letting kids use Picnic only if you consider them to be emotionally and mentally ready to deal with online social interactions.