Snapchat…A Parent’s Review
Snapchat is currently one of the most popular social media apps among teens these days. What makes it so popular? Snapchat allows users to capture and send photos and short videos that self-destruct after a certain amount of time (up to 10 seconds). With Snapchat, it is all about the quick image, animated face, or video!
When users send a message, they get to decide how long it will live on the receiver’s end. After that, send…poof…disappear… it is now history… or so most senders think.
Here are 3 things that parents need to know about Snapchat:
Some teens assume that because their “Snaps” disappear in just a few seconds the app is totally harmless. However, parents need to make sure that their teens know that photos can easily be saved as screenshots. This means that if your teen is using Snapchat, you need to realize that neither you nor your teen has any control over what may be snapped across their smartphone screen! This definitely makes it easier for cyberbullying to occur, as these teens feel the trail of evidence is not easily left behind.
A good discussion for parents to have with their teens is to outline a few risks with Snapchat. While it is true that Snapchat does not save received messages, all modern smartphones allow users to take screenshots (It’s also possible to take a picture of the screen with another camera). This screenshot then simply becomes a static picture, which can be saved, archived, texted, and included as content in any other social media. It can also then be easily used as a way to blackmail the original sender who thought that their private snap was deleted. Snapchat does notify the person taking the picture, if it determines that a screenshot has been captured. However, with a quick online search teens can quickly find out how to save a snap without even notifying the sender that it has been saved.
Some teens consider Snapchat an easy tool for “sexting”. What should be of concern to parents, is that these archived snaps via the screenshot method above, can then be shared with others at anytime. In many cases, these “snaps” have ended up being circulated on the Internet and passed on by students throughout schools resulting in some very embarrassing situations. In its community guidelines, Snapchat “warns” users that their guidelines are pretty clear that once a user creates a Snapchat account, they agree to Snapchat’s guidelines and take on the total responsibility for whatever activity occurs when they are logged into their account. Keep in mind that this poses some risks to parents even when they are not actively aware of their children’s Snapchat activities.
Snaps (photos/videos) taken of minors can be considered child pornography if found on another teen’s smartphone.
In October 2014, a database of hacked Snapchat pictures was released, known as “The Snappening.” This leak contained at least 100,000 pictures and videos from a third-party Snapchat app. It contained a large amount of child pornography, videos, and photos sexted between teenagers. Half of Snapchat’s users are teenagers between the ages of 13 and 17. Even for kids who are cautious with what they send out and to whom they send it to, it is best for parents to remind their children and teens that anything that they post online, is public – even if a snap disappears in seconds. It could come back at anytime in the future. A good rule of thumb that we like to remind teens is public internet does = PERMANENT!
The “Letter X Game” And Cyberbullying
Snapchat was originally designed to be used with pictures. Today, however, there are multiple ways that teens with bad intentions can bully someone and use Snapchat to target their victims. Sending embarrassing photos or videos, containing cruel words and/or photos that compare one teen to an ugly meme or animal are examples of how some mean teens are bullying on Snapchat. This type of snap bullying can often have a significant impact on the person who is on the receiving end.
- One user posts “Send me an x and I’ll give you a name (or similar)” on their story or they send it as a private message to other friends.
- At this point, the receiver(s) of the person’s name start to chime in with “funny” or cruel insults about that person.
- These can become viral, intensifying the bullying.
Many teens claim that the game is all in “good fun”. However, we all understand how cruel and upsetting this game could end up being for even the most grounded and confident teenager!
How can parents monitor Snapchat?
Just like any other form of social media, Snapchat is not the cause of cyberbullying, sexting, or any other behavioral problem. However, it is an easy tool for teens to use as a way to do so. As parents, you can help your kids from becoming victims or even being the instigators. It is worth spending a few minutes to learn about what a parent can do to help keep your teens safer when they use Snapchat.
To begin with, parents should make sure their kids are mature enough to use the app in fun and positive ways, and have the maturity to respond appropriately if someone uses an image or video they sent against them or if they see another person being the victim of a bully. Talking to your teens before allowing them to use Snapchat is a great start. Make sure they understand the risks and the irreparable harm that can come from one picture or saved Snap. Even having a parent-teen-technology-contract can help you set some rules and consequences of inappropriate use. Make sure you have their logins as well so you can see their list of friends when you want to. Also, occasionally check the camera roll to make sure that screenshots are appropriate.
Lastly, use a trustworthy mobile parental control, which gives you the ability to disable the taking of screenshots, blocking Snapchat, and other controls which limit their exposure. Remind your teens again that they can come to you if they see or experience anything on social media that concerns them. If using and social media app starts to become a problem, a good conversation, and some quality time away may be all that you teen needs! If bullying does surface with any form of social media, always encourage your teen to seek help immediately from a trusted adult.
Also published on Medium.