It really is quite challenging to be up to date with my kids’ online activities. Our only requirement for allowing them to use a device is they share their passwords with us. Now that I have a son who’ll be a teen ager in just a few months, I know the password requirement will soon be questioned. So I guess the only way to be up to date with his technology and online activities is to know what’s in and out with teen’s technology. And Snapchat is one of those!
Here’s a guest post from Hilary Smith* about the Ins and Outs of Snapchat and 5 Ways To Encourage Teen Safety On Snapchat
The Ins And Outs Of Snapchat
Snapchat is a popular disappearing messaging app that was developed in 2011. It allows users to send short messages or images to others, but after the receiver views the message after a certain amount of time has elapsed Snapchat automatically deletes the message. The fleeting qualities of this app have made Snapchat one of the fastest growing social media platforms.
Teens and adults embrace the freedom and authentic communication Snapchat offers users. The ephemeral messages trim the amount of data left in a person’s digital footprint making it a great alternative to traditional social media that relies on walls, profiles, and messaging. As an added bonus, it allows users a broad range of self expression without fear that everyone will be able to see every post a person makes.
Recently, Snapchat has created “stories” which are basically homepages for users to post Snapchats with other users. According to the site, “stories are compilations of Snaps that create a narrative … Snaps appear in chronological order with a beginning, middle, and end.” While this makes it easier to share posts, after twenty-four hours the Snaps still disappear from a “story”.
Disappearing Messages And Teens
Typically, children using Snapchat are only sending funny pictures or silly selfies that are entertaining to a certain friend or group of peers. Unfortunately, this popular app is quickly becoming notorious for sexting and cyberbullying among our kids. The promise of fleeting messages can encourage teens to behave in cruel or risky ways that they normally wouldn’t even consider in a face-to-face situation.
It’s easy to put our blinders on and say this won’t happen to our children, but current statistics are stark reminders of how prevalent negative behaviors online really are. Here is a quick rundown of some shocking statistics:
- Sexting is now seen as a normal part of teen development. Experts liken this behavior to “I’ll show you mine, if you show me yours” for the digital age.
- Cyberbullying rates have tripled and now it is widely believed that 87 percent of our children will come across bullying on social media or text messaging.
- 25 percent of Snapchat users regularly send “sensitive content” that includes sexting or bullying.
Children often fail to recognize that there is no guarantee of secrecy. Even though Snapchat boasts about disappearing messages, other users can secretly screenshot or take a picture of the message before it disappears. This copy can then be shared with others or kept as blackmail for later use. So what started out as a fun way to communicate with peers, can backfire and open a child up to lifelong consequences for a hastily made poor decision.
5 Ways To Encourage Teen Safety On Snapchat
Unfortunately, there is no promise or guarantee that our children will never encounter a dangerous situation on social media sites like Snapchat. We need to challenge ourselves to help our kids learn the necessary life skills needed to avoid common potholes lurking on Snapchat.
Listed below are five tips to encourage our sons and daughters to use Snapchat safely:
- Teach children about social media etiquette and frequently discuss this topic as a family.
- Make sure a child knows it is alright to deny a request for sexting or to ignore hurtful comments.
- Stress the importance of seeking help from an adult if they witness cyberbullying.
- Keep digital devices in public living areas to reduce the temptation to take part in questionable activities.
- Encourage kids to only friend people they actually know online and be leary of friend requests from strangers.
What other ways do you use to keep your teens safe on Snapchat and other social media sites? I want to hear your suggestions and tips.
*Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a free-lance journalist whose love of gadgets, technology and business has no bounds. After becoming a parent she now enjoys writing about family and parenting related topics.