Snapchat and Teens: What You Need to Know
By Courtney Cagle
One day, my friend opened up her Snapchat and BAM! There was a picture of a penis there.. No warning, no signs, no message in the photo, just a picture of a penis. She was shocked! It was one of her friends from high school who loved to party and was probably drunk at the time, but it’s something that she will never forget. Incidents like this happen frequently while using the app and can easily happen to your teen.
I’m sure you’ve heard of Snapchat. It’s a messaging app that enables you to send snaps (photos, texts, and short videos) to your friends, which disappear in 1-10 seconds.You can post stories where the photo or video shows up for all of your friends (unless you block them from that story) and lasts for a day, but can be taken down at any time. You are able to see how many people have viewed your story and when someone takes a screenshot of a photo or video. It also has articles that can be viewed on the home feed. It’s an extremely popular app for people between the ages of 13 and 25 years old (Teensafe, 2017). Snapchat can be a quick, fun, and easy way to talk to people, which is why so many teens love to use it.
Snapchat has many features that make it exciting for teens to send photos and videos. It’s how they talk. It’s not about pictures and how good they look; it’s about having a conversation through pictures and videos. Snapchat also allows for people to maintain a streak between them and another person. This pushes more people to use Snapchat every day because in order to have a streak with another person, they must send a snap to one another every single day.
Many of our kids are most likely using Snapchat, whether we realize it or not. Maybe you see them on their phone a lot taking photos or sending messages. Do you know what they’re sending or who they’re sending it to? It’s likely that they are on social media of some form and Snapchat is among the most popular.
Should you worry? Snapchat’s messages quickly disappear within 1-10 seconds meaning that photos and texts seem to be gone forever, but this isn’t the case. People can take screenshots or use other apps to save pictures from Snapchat. It is also possible to grab another device, and take a picture of the screen. Many teens use Snapchat to trade nudes (a practice previously known as “sexting.”) This is a dangerous practice and usually what people end up screenshotting pictures of. Predators may trick kids into sending inappropriate pictures. Teach your kids to be careful about what they send and who they send it to.
Often, teens think Snapchat is an easy way to send inappropriate pictures or trade nudes without any repercussions. However, we need to teach our kids that everything on the internet stays on the internet FOREVER. There is no way to know where your photo went, so it’s better not to send any inappropriate pictures at all. Some teens may not realize this, so it’s important for you, as their parent, to have this discussion (Roberts, 2016).
With so many kids on Snapchat, it should not surprise you that the porn industry advises its own actresses and producers to use snapchat as a marketing tool. As Lauren MacEwen of Xbiz reports in her article about which social media networks are most porn-friendly, “Snapchat is definitely accepting of adult content. This can be a great platform for performers to give free content, or reward their followers with content” (Alexander, 2016)
Cyberbullying is another issue that occurs on Snapchat. Since the photos don’t last very long, most kids won’t get the evidence they need to show that they are being cyberbullied. People can say mean things or save bad photos of others to use against them later. It’s a quick and easy way for bullies to do what they do best (Everything Parents Need to Know About Snapchat, 2017).
Here are 6 ways to help keep your kids safe on Snapchat:
1) Educate yourself about Snapchat. If your kids have asked you for it, download Snapchat onto your phone and play around with it. Get to know Snapchat and discover what your kids are spending their time doing. You could even add them to Snapchat and send them fun snaps. In order to be involved, you have to understand what you’re up against! You have to realize the draw to Snapchat and what makes kids want to keep doing it. If you download it and play around on it, you are allowing yourself to dive into their world (Smart Social Team, 2017).
2) Talk to them often about safety on Snapchat. Communicate with your kids about how their actions cause a ripple effect! Talk about healthy boundaries, the potential of technology, and how to stay safe (Alexander, 2018). This is so important in all aspects of parenting, but especially when it comes to social media. Predators go where our kids are, and our kids are on social media. Help your kids to be discerning. Teach them to keep their information private and to not trust strangers. Online safety is extremely important. Teach your kids that when they post something online, people can always access it. Things marked “private” may not actually be private (Smart Social Team, 2017).
3) Give them social media access at a later age. Children should get a social media account while living at home so that they can understand how to navigate the social media world under your guidance, but we recommend not letting them have social media under the age of 13. It depends on your individual family and the maturity of the child, but the best age would be around 15, 16, or 17. Kids make split-second decisions every day on social media that have the potential to change the rest of their lives, so it is a good idea to allow them to develop a sense of maturity before they encounter that kind of responsibility. (Alexander, 2018).
4) Set limits on their Snapchat usage. I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “nothing good ever happens after midnight,” and that goes for Snapchat as well. The later it gets, the easier it is to send messages and pictures you wouldn’t have sent during the day when you are thinking clearly. I know this from experience! Have kids keep their phone downstairs after 10 pm or whatever time works best for the family. Make sure that they don’t have access to Snapchat late at night. Also, have times during the day where everyone has to be off of their phones. This will limit their Snapchat usage and will encourage them to have more face-to-face interactions with their friends.
5) Teach them how to be responsible with the messages they send. If you allow your kids on Snapchat, explain to them how to be good digital citizens. Show them how to use Snapchat in a way that is healthy and fulfilling. Encourage them to hang out with others face-to-face, instead of just Snapchatting and sending messages to others online. Teach them about the dangers of sending inappropriate pictures or mean messages to others. Teach them kindness and show them how to handle disagreements (Alexander, 2018).
6) Teach them to avoid the “Discover” section. The Discover section of Snapchat contains many articles and photos that kids can click on and view. There are also links to other websites. This is an easy way for kids to find pornography through Snapchat. Help your kids understand the dangers of this section and help them to avoid them. Teach them about the dangers of pornography.
As we instruct our children in these ways, they will be better equipped to navigate social media safely and will learn how to think more critically about the way they communicate with others. These are essential skills in our digitally saturated world!
Here are some additional resources that can help your children stay safe on social media:
Courtney Cagle is a senior at Brigham Young University-Idaho graduating in Marriage and Family Studies. She loves kids and wants to help create a safe environment for all children to learn and grow.
Alexander, D. (2016, February 01). Porn Industry Trends – Where Will They Target Your Children Next? Retrieved from https://educateempowerkids.org/porn-industry-trends-for-2016/
Alexander, D. (2018, February 19). Teach Your Kids About Online Ripples: Our Actions Always Matter. Retrieved July 3, 2018, from https://educateempowerkids.org/teach-kids-online-ripples-actions-always-matter/?utm_content=buffer7972c&utm_medium=social&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_campaign=buffer
Alexander, D. (2018). Social Media and Teens: The Ultimate Guide to Keeping Kids Safe Online. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from https://educateempowerkids.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Social_Media_Guide_Contract_Single_Pages.pdf
Roberts, K. (2016, April 27). 6 Reason Why Kids Sext. Retrieved from https://educateempowerkids.org/6-reason-kids-sext-2/
(2018, March 07). Everything Parents Need to Know About Snapchat. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from http://content.mobicip.com/content/everything-parents-need-know-about-snapchat
Smart Social Team. (2017, August 22). Instagram & Snapchat Safety Tips from 7 Experts. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from https://smartsocial.com/instagram-snapchat-safety/
Teensafe. (2017, May 08). Everything a Parent Needs to Know About SNAPCHAT. Retrieved June 25, 2018, from https://www.teensafe.com/blog/everything-a-parent-needs-to-know-about-snapchat/