Move over Instagram, there's a new photo-sharing app in town. SnapChat allows users to share photos, videos, drawings, and texts-- and it's very popular.
One of the reasons why this app is well loved by teens is its price: Sending information over a wifi network is doesn't cost a thing. Another reason for SnapChat's popularity is the short amount of time something exists on the phone: once a user receives a photo, text, video, or drawing it only remains on the phone for a short amount of time. This feature is attractive to teens because they know that whatever is sent isn't permanent.
And there's the rub: once something is put on the internet, it is out there. Teens may feel free to send thoughtless content because they think it disappears. But there are always around any program or app. A quick Google search will reveal easy ways to permanently keep SnapChat content.
One other thing to look out for is sexting and cyberbullying. Because teens believe this app is harmless and will delete their pics after ten seconds, they are sometimes tempted to send sexual images or hurtful comments. This type of harmful activity can result in unimagined consequences for a teen. Check out this article from Psychology Today for more information on sexting.
While the majority of teens will use this app to send harmless content to each other, like any app it has the potential to be abused. The key is to engage your child in conversation about what is appropriate and what is not, and explain how to be safe online.
Here are some tips for keeping your child safe on SnapChat:
- Be sure s/he selects the option to communicate only with existing friends-- not anyone in the world.
- Take a screenshot of any SnapChat content that is inappropriate, and report it (use your judgment- should you report the user to SnapChat or to the police is up to you)
- Talk to your child regularly about the risks of sharing information online.
- Know your child's password for this app. Be open with your child about the fact that you need access to his/her social media accounts.
- Review SnapChat's Parent Guide for information and tips.
- Remember that you are the parent and you know what's best for your child. If you're uncomfortable with this app, remove it.