I’ve been getting a lot of questions lately about some of the Apps that are growing in popularity among teenagers. One of the biggest has been SnapChat. SnapChat is a photo messaging system that allows users to send photos and videos to their contacts. Users set a limit of up to ten seconds for how long the media can appear on the other users phone. From there, the media disappears from the other users device and is deleted from the company’s servers. Seems innocent enough, right? Maybe not. Now I don’t want people to get too concerned because plenty of users are following the rules and regulations of both the app and basically, common sense. The problem are those who aren’t.
If I’ve said it before and I’ll say it time and time again, the best thing that parents can do is have a conversation about what their kids are getting up to in the mobile world. Talk to them about what Apps are acceptable to be using and what you expect from them as digital citizens. Find out how they and their friends are using the application and how you can get involved in the fun!
Like all apps and social networking sites, it’s important to understand the best ways to keep yourself safe. SnapChat’s settings are pretty basic and allow you to protect yourself by controlling who is able to send you “Snaps.” The default for the program is “Friends Only” and, as always, I suggest keeping it that way. This way, only approved friends are able to send you content to your device.
Keeping your friends real is the best thing you can do with this app and all social networking. My general rule of thumb is: if they aren’t a contact in my phone, they aren’t my friends. I would even expand that out to: if I’ve never been in the same room as this person, I’m not going to be their friend. In the digital world you can’t be too safe!
Pick a smart password and keep it to yourself. If someone were to get a hold of your password they would be able to send “snaps” as you and create a lot of problems. My favorite rule is this: treat your password like your toothbrush- change it often and don’t share it with anyone!
The biggest concern for this application is sexting. It allows for someone to share a sexually explicit photo or video with someone albeit for a limited period of time. While one would hope that their teen is smart enough to avoid such dangers but mistakes do happen. Making sure that your kids understand the consequences of sexting both the legal and non-legal ramifications. It’s important to take the time to think before you make a mistake that could affect you now or in the future.
Why Parents Should Be Concerned (This Media Is Forever)
Here’s the problem with SnapChat. Kids have it in their head that the “Snaps” they are sending disappear after the allotted time they’ve designated. This isn’t necessarily true. Users receiving the “snaps” can take a screen capture on their phone, preserving the photo. If your child is sending something inappropriate or explicit, it can be saved and redistributed, leading to a slew of problems including legal issues.
Like files on your computer, when the image disappears, it doesn’t really go away. In May of 2013, Forbes reported that these pieces of media don’t actually disappear and with minimal knowledge, the can be retrieved from the receiving device. You can read the report by clicking here.
With all of this in mind, I encourage parents to stay on top of the kind of media their kids are creating whether it’s on the computer or with their mobile devices. By staying knowledgeable about these issues and keeping an open line of communication with your child you can avoid problems that can arise.
As always, should you have any questions about SnapChat or other media please feel free to e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
Josh Gunderson is an award-winning Bullying Prevention and Social Media Specialist. Josh has appeared on MTV, Comedy and National Geographic. For more information about Josh and his educational programs please visit www.HaveYouMetJosh.com
You can purchase Josh’s book “Cyberbullying: Perpetrators, Bystanders & Victims” on Amazon! Available in paperback or for Kindle.