Certainly one of the most popular Social Media platforms right now among young teens to twenty somethings is Snapchat. In some ways this is preferable to Facebook as it’s much harder to randomly add ‘friends’. My daughter certainly uses this much more than Facebook and sometimes it concerns me that it’s much harder for me to know what she is doing. I’m happier that she isn’t connected to random strangers but since photos/videos last a brief 10 seconds (unless a screenshot is taken) I can’t see the images she is sharing. We have a level of trust that she isn’t sharing inappropriate images of herself or others – she has too much self-respect for that.
We had, and continue to have, conversations about what is and isn’t appropriate and why. In her words:
‘you don’t send anything you wouldn’t show to your parents or grandparents’.
For those unfamiliar with Snapchat here is a quick summary. A user takes photos/videos and shares them with a friend (or occasionally a group of friends). They can add text, filters and stickers to the image to make it unique. Messages last 10 seconds but a screenshot (save) can be taken which preserves the message indefinitely. The friend then responds in the same way building up a conversation. You also have ‘stories’ that act more like a temporary Facebook status. These can be viewed multiple times within a 24 hour period, after which they disappear.
Sadly Snapchat, due to its fleeting nature, has become a hub for cyber bullying. Nasty messages sent to teens designed to upset or intimidate disappear, leaving no trace unless the victim takes a screenshot. But keeping this as evidence can inflame the situation as the bully knows the victim has taken a screenshot. It’s a difficult situation for a teen to deal with. Encourage them to talk to you about it. I don’t have enough room here to go over all the settings in Snapchat but here are some key points to help protect your children:
• Ensure the username is suitable – you can’t change this once the account is set up. Somebody must enter the exact username to get connected on Snapchat. (Your ‘Name’ is what your friends see – ‘Username’ is different).
• In your ‘Who Can’ section you should set ‘Contact Me’ and ‘View my story’ to ‘friends only’ and ‘see me in quick add’ to off.
• You should block or delete anyone you don’t know in real-life, this includes friends of friends.
Since this is an ‘App’ your kids load onto their phone you may find they’re already using it. Like Facebook there is an age restriction in place of 13 years and if a child under 13 enters an accurate birth date they will be redirected to the kid’s version, Snapkidz. Most kids won’t want to be on the kid’s version but rather be a part of the adult world. You will have the same issues you get on Facebook with younger kids lying about their age. If they obey the rules about not adding people they don’t know then at least the ‘stranger’ issue is mitigated.
So in summary is Snapchat any better for your kids than Facebook? In some respects I think it is but if you don’t have a level of trust with your children then you may consider the lack of visibility of what they share makes it a poorer choice for you. You know your child.
I hope we have given you enough of an insight into Snapchat to make an informed decision about it.