Children are definitely visual beings and social media apps like Instagram and Snapchat are enabling a world of visual sharing that wasn’t possible even just 4-5 years ago. I previously wrote about why my son wanted an Instagram account and for this post I asked parents I know about Snapchat and if their child was using it what were the reasons given to get it and use it. But first…
Snapchat was first launched in 2011 by Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown – all Stanford University students. Snapchat is an app that works on both Android and iOS devices and allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a controlled list of recipients. The concept of sharing these moments are called “Snaps”. Snaps disappear within seconds of being posted (up to 10 seconds) – this has been known as a big reason for the popularity of Snapchat. Once the timer is up, the Snaps are to disappear from the Snapchat servers. Another feature of Snapchat is “My Story” which puts the snaps (photos and videos) taken in a day together in a slideshow. Friends can watch your story for 24 hours only. Lastly, a Snapchat Score is also a visual feature that measure engagement by the user based on number of friends and the number of snaps that were done.
6 Reasons Children want a Snapchat Account
I asked parents who have children with a Snapchat account and about why their children’s reasons to getting an account. The following are unedited points from parents with children in the 13-17 years of age.
- Send pics or videos to friends – which disappear and makes it difficult for mom and dad to see what’s going on.
- Parents didn’t want their child to have Facebook.
- Parents are on Facebook and children didn’t want to be on the same social network as their parents.
- As mentioned in my previous Instagram post, children want a sense of belonging and following what their friends are doing outside of school or other activities they do together.
- Technology reasons: you can message and share photos with friends over Wi-Fi regardless of their device (iOS or Android) and in some cases not everyone has a smartphone yet so this allows them to be part of the conversation even on a tablet.
By far the best comment (and 6th reason) I received which speaks so strongly about many things in life that our children ask for:
Our girl says because all of her friends have it… We checked and, no they don’t! LOL
She still doesn’t either…
5 Items to Consider
- Disappearing “Snaps” give a false sense of security that the “Snap” will disappear so teens tend to share (or consider sharing) more borderline type of photos and content. A quick screenshot on your smartphone removes this sense of confidence. Do a Google Images search for “snapchat examples” and this breaks the whole concept of Snaps are not forever.
- Like most other social networks, a minimum age of 13 years old is required and with Snapchat, under 18 requires a parent’s consent. Again, most kids will simply sign up with this parental consent. All you need if an email, password and you can simply pick any date for your age.
- Reputation of the “sexting platform”. Like all reputations about online activities I wouldn’t read too much into this. Snapchat is used for more good than bad – there’s no doubt that the media will inflate the actual usage of Snapchat for negative activity vs. just honest fun in sharing moments. Just be aware that educating yourself (parents) and your children on the do’s and don’ts of online citizenship apply to any social media/messaging app/online activities we partake in.
- If Snapchat is installed on a smartphone, the phone number of that phone is included in the profile information.
- Make sure your child has used the default settings for who can send Snaps and view their Story – by default these only provide access to My Friends.
What to do?
Keeping your children off the various social and messaging apps is a growing challenge for parents. The sense of belonging to a group or community is important for children and keeping them away will always bring up the popular question: Why? Make sure the reasons are good, check with their friends’ parents on if they are using it and why they are using it. Parents must feel comfortable with this decision too and for most cases, parents don’t always know the whole picture on these social networks.
Our children treat online communication as part of their social life now (and let’s be honest, so do we as parents) – it’s no longer just face to face communication. Social media is something that we need to continue to educate ourselves on but the reality is the same citizenship approach we’d take in raising our children in real life apply online.
If you’re concerned about how much time your child will spend on Snapchat, consider using Boomerang for time limits on the app (for Android-only).
P.S. yes I created an account on Snapchat just to learn about it for this post (those are real pics of me messing around in the image above) – feel free to add me via my Snapchat username: justin.payeur.
Sources: http://familyshare.com/10-things-parents-and-kids-should-know-about-the-snapchat-app http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_guide.pdf https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapchat http://parenting.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/11/05/why-your-kids-love-snapchat-and-why-you-should-let-them/