“Facebook is for old people now Mom!” And so the wheel of social media turns, turns, turns. Chances are if your child is in middle school or junior high, they are entering the arena of social media at full force.
I have a little age span with my children. My oldest who is a senior in high school is well-versed in Snapchat as well as my sophomore. My fourteen year old son could care less because he feels like that is just one more way for girls to annoy him (he broke up with his last little girlfriend because she was constantly texting him). My middle, I must confess, started using the app without my knowledge and I panicked because I really had very little grasp on the app.
I sat down with my almost eighteen year old to learn how to work the app myself. Frankly, even after my coaching lesson, I find it confusing. It requires multi-tasking finger dexterity well beyond my mom-speed.
The basics of Snapchat, in case you are out of the loop, I find a little ironic. The creator, Evan Spiegel intended to create a service that gave more privacy than Facebook or Instagram for photo sharing between friends. Guess what this means? It is harder for you as a parent to monitor what your children are sharing. Sure you can demand they allow you to follow them, but they will still have the ability to send photos to their friends and those will almost certainly not include you Mom and Dad.
The Snapchat app is not intended for users under the age of 13. If you go to download it in the ITunes store, it is rated 12+, so you can actually use your ITunes downloading restrictions to keep your younger child from downloading the app to their device. However, all the child has to do is put in a different year of birth and ta da, if you have no ITunes restrictions–they have just obtained Snapchat. There is actually a SnapKidz app designed by Snapchat for younger kids. This allows them to take pictures, add drawings and captions but they cannot add friends or message the photos or videos anywhere. You can let them have this as an alternative, but chances are not having the ability to send (which is probably why they wanted it in the first place) will not pacify their requests.
Snapchat allows users to send photos or short videos that “self-destruct” after a time period from being viewed, generally ten seconds. You have to hold down on the photo or video to view it. This often gives kids a false sense of security. The “self-destruct” only removes the picture from the Snapchat app, but both Android and iPhone allow users to screen shot a photograph, so there is absolutely no chance of these pictures always being one and done. Snapchat tried to include a feature that alerts the sender if their “snap” was screen shot, but according to my daughter that is a hit or miss notification.
Users are able to create groups of approved followers to view a certain photo/video or they can create a Snapchat story that is visible to all their followers. Users should always set their privacy settings so that ONLY people they know can send them images so it is not exactly wide open to the public. This is found under settings. Change the option from “everyone” to “my friends.” I have found that unlike Instagram, at least with my crew, they really only interact with their friends on Snapchat. They can snap a picture of their food, make a silly face and draw on it before sending, or update their squad on their current activities.
Here is what you absolutely need to know about Snapchat if you are a user or a parent:
This absolutely has to be a discussion between pre/teens and parents. Limit your pictures to friends that you trust. I also think it is extremely important to understand that preteen and teenage friendships are like rear view mirrors and not always what they appear to be. A friend today can easily be an enemy tomorrow. The safest thing you can do is limit your posts to your closest friends. You need to trust but verify this often with your kids. Sit down with them and ask them to show you their Snapchat in the least threatening way possible so you can use this to engage in conversation.
Watch What You Send
As with any post you make on the internet, even if you decide to go back and delete it at a later date, there is a chance it is still out there. It can be tempting to think you can send that risky picture to your boyfriend or even use a photo to poke fun at someone you do not like, but those can come back to haunt you down the road. Stay classy!
It’s Your Future
Colleges and employers are spending more time singling out candidates by viewing their online activities. If having your boss, college admissions representative, or grandmother view the photo would make you embarrassed then just DO NOT SEND IT. You may find it hard to snag that summer job at the clothing store doing customer service, if there is a photograph of you out there trying to be funny and flipping someone the proverbial bird. Hard to say you work well with others, if this is the image you either intentionally or unintentionally put out to the world.
There is ability in Snapchat to block someone from sending you messages. If someone bullies you or your child, use the privacy settings and stop the ability of them to send you messages. Snapchat actually alerts the sender when their snap has been viewed. If you block a bully and never view their snap hopefully they will lose their steam in trying to attack this way. Ignore their advances. To do this find their name in your list of friends, click and hold the name and it will bring up icons. The settings icon looks like a gear you click that and hit block. That “friend” can no longer send you photos or videos.
As with all social media use, you absolutely have to have ongoing conversations with your growing tweens and teens about internet safety. Constantly discuss the possible consequences of oversharing which can be very real and have very long lasting impact. If you want to stay in the know, there is a great website for parents www.bewebsmart.com that provides a wealth of information for navigating social media apps with your children. Talk now and talk often.