Phone Apps Explained for Parents: Should Your Kid SnapChat?

The delightful blogger Sarah Brooks sent this in:

As if the internet doesn’t freak parents out enough, along comes a little smartphone app called SnapChat.

If you are familiar with SnapChat, you probably hate its guts. If you aren’t familiar with it, I’ll try to enlighten you, and then you’ll probably hate its guts.

I didn’t even want to write about this app because a) it’s very controversial and b) the amount of selfies I had to take to give you an idea of how your kids are using it is unnerving. But, alas, some parents have asked me about it and it is certainly worth discussing if you haven’t already done your research on it.

Here’s how the app works:

1. Set up an account and find friends.

Really important: the privacy on SnapChat is found under settings. Set to “My Friends” only, unless you want your child picture-messaging with strangers off the street.

 


2. Take a picture or video and add a caption or drawing.
(Or mustache and eyebrows in this case.)

Tapping on the picture opens up the keyboard to send a short line of text, as well.

 

3. Set the time expiration on the photo and send. (The most time allowed on each picture/video is 10 seconds.)


4. Friends open the message and view the photo until the time expires.


5. Photo disappears forever, never to be seen again.

According to SnapChat’s website,

Snapchat is a new way to share moments with friends. Snap an ugly selfie or a video, add a caption, and send it to a friend (or maybe a few). They’ll receive it, laugh, and then the snap disappears.

In a nutshell, the app is designed to be fun way for your kids to text with pictures. And, for the most part, that’s how they’re using it.

So…what’s the problem?

The problem is in the disappearing photo part.

When you’re a teenager alone in your room armed with a smartphone and a cute boy or girl on the other line, you might not just be sending “ugly selfies”. You might be more inclined to send selfies of the half-naked variety, especially when the photo evidence disappears into cyberspace.

The fine folks at SnapChat have also designed the app in such a way that taking a screenshot of a photo is next to impossible. It’s a circus act that requires all of your fingers, plus a few of your friends’. Even then you probably can’t get it.

The photo is gone. Any evidence of inappropriate usage is deleted.

“Well that settles it. My kid is never allowed to have this app.”

Fair enough. From a safety standpoint, this app is a parent’s worst nightmare.

That said, it’s worth pointing out that your child will send and receive half-naked pictures if he or she decides to, SnapChat or not. It’s depressing, but it’s reality. The app can certainly make doing so easier, but SnapChat isn’t to blame. Teenage hormones are. Or something.

I got this app a while ago to see how the teens in our youth group are using it – I snap, they snap, we all snap – and I’ve discovered a sliver of silver lining in all of this. From what I’ve seen (and heard), most of our kids aren’t using the app in a suspect way.

From 6th grade to college student to 25 year old mom, most are using SnapChat for good, clean fun.

An example convo might be:

 

Harmless texting with facial expressions attached. A way to send hilariously unfortunate selfies to your friends.

Is there room for this app to be used inappropriately? Absolutely, as is the case with all forms of communication.

Is every kid on SnapChat sexting (that phrase is the worst)? Absolutely not.

Should your child have a SnapChat account? Tough call.

This app should definitely give you pause, but I can’t answer that question for you.

All I can do is offer a little insider information on how I see/watch/hear most of our kids using it and hope that knowledge brings about great conversations with your own kids.

More questions about the app? Snap me anytime.

Check out Sarah’s blog, Life as of Late,  follow her on Twitter, or, yes, check out her Instagram account. 

More Reading:

Sarah explains Instagram here. The comments on her original post are here. 

Sarah’s follow up post on Instagram is here

Rebecca on explains why she Dumped Facebook.

Rebecca’s followup: Breaking Up with Facebook Feels so Right 

Rebecca two months later: Frankly, I’m Shocked at the Difference it’s Made. 

About Rebecca Cusey

Rebecca is a lead critic and editor of entertainment at Patheos. Follow her on Twitter @Rebecca_Cusey


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