Last Updated on 14th April 2022

With the launch of the new TikTok Stories feature, we take a look into what social media stories are and why young people use them.

Long gone are the days of buying disposable cameras – capturing moments with friends on school holidays to bring in and show around to classmates on the morning back to school (and hoping that when developed at the local chemist at least some of them turn out as more than a blur!).

These days, sharing moments with others is so easy and instant, it’s usually done in the moment itself! However, whether it’s in print or a post online, the motive behind it remains the same; from our ancestors sharing stories of their experiences around the campfire to today’s online visual snapshot of our lives, we all love sharing stories of where we’ve been and what we’ve seen.

In today’s digital world, social media platforms provide an outlet for children and young people to sit around the metaphorical campfire and tell their stories. They update each other about their lives, by posting pictures and videos on their social media profiles, sharing and comparing experiences.

This Easter, as children and young people head out on adventures with friends and family, there’s a new option for sharing their experiences: TikTok Stories has been launched. To explain how it works, we’ve created this guide to TikTok stories and social media stories across a number of popular platforms. We’ve also included our top tips to keeping children and young people safer when using these features.

What Are Social Media Stories?

Within social media apps, a story is a picture or video that can be viewed for 24 hours after being posted. The most common platforms for sharing stories are Instagram and Snapchat. There are no set privacy rules and each platform will differ in appearance and how exactly it’s used.

There is no limit to the amount of images or videos a user can share on their story.


Instagram initially rolled out the ‘story’ feature as a way of posting higher-quality visual stories. This proved popular and now, there’s over 500 million stories posted each day on average to Instagram.


Snapchat was initially well known for its ‘filters’, which have now been adopted by several other social media sites. Snapchat also has the story feature available for their 319 million daily active users, who create over 5 billion snaps every day.

Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat and Instagram all give the option of using filters which help to enhance and/or change the colour of a picture. Filters on some platforms also use Augmented Reality to overlay features on the face.

On TikTok’s new story feature, the editing options are the same as when using TikTok normally, with the same editing tools, sounds, effects and filters available for use.


Facebook unveiled its version of ‘stories’ back in 2017. The function has grown in popularity and now boasts over 1 billion people who use the feature across Meta’s family of apps, including Instagram.


TikTok has now joined the other social media platforms by welcoming the new feature of TikTok ‘stories’ to their 1 billion monthly users.

The feature was originally launched as a pilot back in the summer of 2021, meaning only a selected number of users had access. Now, TikTok Stories is being rolled out to all users.

Key Features in a Story

Text can be added to social media stories, including the ability to handwrite or draw on the image on all four platforms.

Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook Stories also allow location to be added to the post. This feature needs to be used cautiously, as strangers could easily identify a user by their pictures and any personal information they’ve shared on their posts.

Snapchat, Facebook, TikTok and Instagram all offer ‘stickers’ as a way to customise and decorate stories and includes emojis and moving GIFs.
On Instagram stories, users can create a poll by asking viewers to choose between two different options. For example, they might post a picture with the text, ‘what should I eat for dinner tonight?’, with the two options being: ‘pizza’ or ‘salad’. Those viewing the story can select their answer and the user who posted the poll can see the results.
Instagram story highlights appear on a user’s profile. These are stories the user has previously posted and then has saved as a ‘highlight’. The user can then select as many as they like to appear at the top of their profile.

Instagram automatically saves your stories to an ‘archive’ folder as a way to keep them after the 24-hour time limit has expired.

On Snapchat, snaps can be saved to memories which is similar to how Instagram keeps an archive of any pictures or videos you might want to save before posting.

Snapchat, Instagram and Facebook also give you the option to save stories to your camera roll before you share them to your profile.

Instagram, Facebook and TikTok all support live streaming, which users can then post via their stories, making stories a very popular feature for influencers and content creators.

What is an Influencer?

An influencer is someone with an online social media presence and with a large enough following to market or ‘influence’ their audience to buy products, services and goods. Learn more about influencers here.

Live streams can be viewed through the ‘live’ section of TikTok or by directly clicking a user’s profile picture at the top of their profile. Users must be 16+ years old to enable livestreaming on TikTok and have at least 1,000 followers.


Who Can See Social Media Stories?

When a story is posted, anyone that a user is friends with on the app can view it dependent on their privacy settings. 

Both Instagram and Snapchat allow you to see who has viewed a story, however, Snapchat goes one step further by sending a notification to the original poster every time someone screenshots part of their story. On TikTok, users can’t see who have viewed their story, just a counter showing how many people have looked at it. 

It’s important to note that despite Snapchat’s screenshot notifications, there are ways around it. By using a second device with a camera (like another phone or a tablet) or by using screen recording software, someone’s story can be captured without them ever knowing. 

The Risks of Social Media Stories

Similarly to many other aspects of social media, young people should be cautious about what details they are sharing via stories. They may not realise that they are giving away information about where they live, what school they go to, their current location etc. Oversharing could also give away details of their routines, hobbies and interests that could be used for grooming purposes, such as to build a connection through interests.

The sad reality is that for young people, sharing elements of their lives, hobbies and personality online can leave them susceptible to bullying. For example, they may have interest in an unusual or unpopular hobby and show this via a story. Alternatively, someone seen as ‘showing off’ or even fabricating or curating their lifestyle may also be open to being targeted.

With any location sharing online, there is always a potential for abuse. Children and young people should only use location sharing with trusted adults and friends. Sharing a location could mean a young person is easier to locate, whether by a stranger or someone they know as part of controlling behaviour in an unhealthy relationship.
Although stories only last for 24 hours, this doesn’t mean that a story posted is gone from the internet. Likewise, even if a story is only shared with a known audience of friends and/or family, there’s no guarantee it will only be viewed by them. By taking screenshots or using video recording devices, content can be stored, saved and shared beyond the control of the content creator.

How To Stop People from Seeing Social Media Stories

On Snapchat, certain people can be stopped from seeing your story by blocking them. To do this:

  • Visit Settings
  • Scroll down and tap on ‘Who can view my story’
  • From here you can customise who views your story

Similarly, on Instagram:

  • Tap on ‘Settings’
  • Tap on ‘Privacy’
  • Tap on ‘Story’
  • From here you can customise who views, reacts to and shares your story

Facebook also allows users to choose who they want or don’t want to see their story depending on current privacy settings.

In the new TikTok story feature, there is a ‘privacy settings’ section as you upload your story. It allows you to select who will see your story and gives the options of ‘everyone’, ‘friends’ (followers you follow back) and ‘only me’. It also allows the option of enabling or disabling comments.

It is more important now than ever to discuss social media stories with children and young people in your care. If they use Facebook, TikTok, Snapchat or Instagram, then there is a good chance that they will already be creating and viewing stories every day.

Our Top Tips

  • Talk about social media. With so much of young people’s time being spent on social media, it’s important that their ‘digital life’ is as much a part of everyday conversation as every other aspect of their life. 

  • Discuss stories with them. You can use this article to help! Find out what stories they view, which they like and which ones they dislike – and why! Use conversational questions such as “do any of your friends use social media stories?” and open-ended questions, like “what sort of stories do you like watching?”.

  • Chat about social media content. Knowing what sort of social media content they like, and dislike can be key for understanding how they view social media and what sort of content they are accessing. For example, if they dislike social media stories that are ‘flashy’ or materialistic, this is an opportunity to talk about how people’s social media content is often far from an accurate depiction of their lives.

  • Be open when talking. Having a calm and open discussion about social media will also give young people the opportunity to voice any concerns they might have around online bullying or harmful content they might have seen.

  • Practice makes perfect! Using your or their phone, go through our ‘How to Stop People from Seeing Social Media Stories’ on each app, practicing how to adjust who can view stories and how to stop certain people from seeing them.

  • Check privacy settings. Use our Safety Centre and our Safety Cards to help apply privacy settings to your accounts, stories and any content you post online.

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