What parents need to know about Snapchat
Learn everything you need to know about Snapchat and how you can educate your kids about this new app.
It is almost impossible for us parents to keep up with all the new apps that pop up on a daily basis. But isn’t it amusing how both teenagers and younger kids manage to keep up with the thousands of apps out there?
One such app is Snapchat – a media sharing app that kids can use to share pictures of themselves. What’s different about Snapchat is that once the picture is viewed, it will disappear automatically in seconds.
The user can specify a time limit – from 1 to 10 seconds – the photo can be viewed once opened.
The developers of Snapchat claim that this app was developed as an alternative to other social media sites where pictures could be online – potentially forever.
When photos are uploaded on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter without proper security settings, there’s no limit as to how many people can view and share the picture.
Snapchat is obviously a relief to many teens who are worried – if at all – about the permanency and repercussions of sharing their personal pictures on social media.
Therefore, as you would imagine, this app has become the latest tool teens use for ‘sexting.’ If you are unaware of what sexting is, it means to share nude or semi-nude pictures of oneself with another party via MMS and now, apps like Snapchat.
An online poll conducted by Survata in 2013 revealed that out of 5,475 American teens (which include 715 Snapchat users), approximately 13% admitted that they used the app to sext.
Dangers of Snapchat
Snapchat is seemingly harmless because there’s no trace of pictures sent. However, parents and kids should be aware that it is not completely safe.
Although Snapchat doesn’t allow users to save pictures, most Apple iPhones and Android phones have a feature where it is possible to save a picture of the screen. This is similar to the ‘print screen’ option on a computer.
Therefore, someone could ‘screen capture’ a picture in a matter of seconds and share it with others on their friends list. It is also possible to take a picture of the phone screen with another phone or camera.
Another concern about Snapchat is that although there’s a lower age limit of 13 years, younger children can gain access to this app by simply typing in a fictitious date of birth.
Although you can control your 13-year-old’s phone access and track what apps they use, it is not quite as easy with a 17- or 18-year-old.
Thus, parents need to take the initiative to educate their children about using mobile phone apps responsibly and safely.
Here are some tips on how you could educate your children about Snapchat and other similar apps:
– The original purpose of Snapchat was to share ‘selfies’ and light-hearted pictures of oneself. If your child installs Snapchat on their phone, tell them that they should not share any images that they would also not share on social media.
– Inform them that pictures sent through Snapchat are as permanent as those shared on social media.
– If they are not already aware, talk to them about the repercussions of sharing pictures that could be damaging to themselves and to others too.
– Ask them not to ‘screen capture’ any pictures or videos they get from people on their own friends list.
– Talk to your kids about setting secure and strong passwords, and not sharing them with anyone. It is also best that your child protects their phone with a password, and doesn’t lend their phone to others.
– On Snapchat there are ways to search for people and add them to your friends list. Tell your kids not to add anyone they don’t know to their friends list.
– Inform your kids that if someone shares their pictures without permission, Snapchat has an option to block them.
– If someone harasses your child or shares their photos without permission, you could report abuse by sending an email to [email protected].
– If you wish to delete your child’s Snapchat account you could do it at http://www.snapchat.com/a/delete_account.
However, you would need your child’s Snapchat user name and password. If your child is doesn’t give you this, send a deletion request to http://www.snapchat.com/static_files/deletion_request.pdf.
– Have open conversations with your kids about which apps they could use and which you prefer them not to use. Explain to them why you don’t want them to use a particular app.
– If you are unsure about a certain app, ask your child to show you how it is used.
– If your younger child has their own phone, and you prefer to control the apps they install, this can be done by changing security settings on their phone so that only you can install apps.
So parents, had you heard about Snapchat before reading this story? We’d like to know what your views are on it. Please let us know by leaving a comment below.