With all of the different apps on the market today, it can be hard for parents to keep up. However, one app that parents should definitely be aware of is Snapchat.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat, a popular smartphone app among teens, is marketed as a way to send “disappearing” messages to friends. Users can snap a photo or video of themselves, add text or visual effects on top of the image or video, and then choose friends to send it to once complete. Whoever receives the message can only view it once before it vanishes, however it is very easy for the receiver to quickly take a screenshot of the message.
Are teens using Snapchat?
The short answer? Yes! In 2015, research showed that 78% of teens between the ages of 13-17 were using Snapchat. Since it has only grown in popularity since then, it is safe to assume that the numbers have probably risen even higher. Snapchat has even grown to be a more popular social media platform than Facebook for teens.
Why should parents be concerned about Snapchat?
The fact that Snapchat is marketed as a disappearing message app should be worrisome to parents. Teens mistakenly feel protected by the assumption that their messages will never be seen by anyone besides the receiver. Because of this, some teens feel free to send sexually explicit photos that they normally wouldn’t share through social media. If the receiver chooses to save the photo with a screenshot, it can easily be circulated to other people and used to bully or tease the original sender.
Who else is on Snapchat besides teens? Predators. Even the FBI has warned parents about the number of predators who are actively looking for teens on Snapchat. These predators take advantage of the teen’s assumption that the messages disappear and use it to obtain provocative photos.
Unfortunately, Snapchat is also used to cyberbully classmates and peers. As seen in the video below from Teensafe, bullies feel safe sending harassing or threatening messages through Snapchat, since the proof vanishes after the receiver views it. Some bullies choose to take photos of themselves hanging out with friends, and then send the message to others to make them feel left out.
How can you keep teens safe on Snapchat?
Are your kids already on Snapchat? If so, follow these tips to keep kids safe on this smartphone app:
· Make sure teens are aware that nothing is ever private on social media. No matter what privacy settings you have on your profile or what an app promises, there is no guaranteed way to keep your information private, so be careful what you write and send.
· Monitor your teens’ cell phone use to make sure they are using good judgment when active on social media.
· Have an open door policy with your teens to encourage them to come to you when they’re facing problems with peers related to cyberbullying.
· Set guidelines so teens don’t spend too much time on Snapchat and social media in general. Create strict policies such as no phones after dinner or no phones in the bedroom to limit their screen time.
The digital world is rapidly changing, so it’s the parents’ responsibility to stay up-to-date with the latest apps and websites that teens are frequenting. Remember, the only way to protect teens is to know what’s going on in the first place!
This article was written by nolaParent contributor Hilary Smith (firstname.lastname@example.org). 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. Some of her other articles include the following: