It can be difficult for parents to keep up with the latest apps and social media platforms that kids are using, but it’s important to make an effort to at least know the most popular ones. One of the apps that has quickly become a teen favorite is Snapchat.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a “disappearing” messaging app that teens use to communicate via photos or videos with friends. Once a photo or video is seen by the receiver, it vanishes. However, the receiver can take a screenshot if he or she would really like to save the message.
Snapchat has officially surpassed Instagram as the fastest-growing social media app and currently is considered the most popular app among teens. What’s so great about Snapchat? Teens love that unlike other social media platforms, Snapchat doesn’t post their messages for the world to see. Instead, teens can choose who receives the message and because it vanishes, teens feel safer sending photos or videos that they normally wouldn’t post on social media.
Are Teens Safe on Snapchat?
Many teens use Snapchat to innocently sent goofy pictures or videos back and forth to friends. However, there are dangers that teens can be exposed to on this app.
Many predators use Snapchat to send sexually explicit photos to teens, knowing that the evidence will vanish after a few seconds. Even the FBI has warned that these predators will convince teens to send them explicit photos as well, assuring them the messages will disappear anyways, so it’s not a big deal.
The disappearing-message feature makes Snapchat an attractive social media platform for bullies. Bullies can send harassing or threatening messages to teens knowing that the message will disappear and there will be no evidence that the bullying occurred. Sometimes, teens take pictures hanging out with friends at a party, and then send those pictures to other people to make them feel left out. There have been cases where teens send embarrassing or explicit photos to a friend, only to have the friend screenshot it and use it to cyberbully the sender. In fact, 52% of Snapchat users have noted that their messages have been saved as snapshots by the receiver.
Parents should remember that cyberbullying is not something to take lightly. In a recent survey, 30% of teens said that cyberbullying led them to turn to self-harming behavior, and 83% of victims suffered self-esteem damage.
What Can Parents Do?
Now that you know about the dangers that teens may face on Snapchat, follow these tips to protect teens as much as possible:
- Limit phone usage. Make certain times of the day or rooms in the house “no phone zones,” especially the bedroom. Keeping smartphones out of kids’ bedrooms will ensure that they don’t take any bad judgment calls by taking inappropriate photos.
- Make it relevant. There are a number of celebrity hacking scandals that have made headlines in the news recently. Use these relevant examples as a way to start a conversation with teens about whether privacy ever exists when you’re using a smartphone or a social media app.
- Teach kids not to respond. If someone cyberbullies your teen, it’s important that they learn not to respond to it and add fuel to the fire. Instead, tell kids that if a threatening or harassing message comes through Snapchat, try to take a screenshot of it so they have proof that it exist. Then, approach the school, or if the message is serious enough, the police with the evidence.
Remember, Snapchat is just one app that teens are using on a regular basis. As parents, it’s important to stay up-to-date with the latest trends in social media so you’re always aware of what teens are doing online.
Born and raised in Austin, TX, Hilary Smith is a freelance 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.