Updated: Nov 7, 2022
To Snap or NOT to Snap...
We ALL try to cultivate the way that other's see us. Whether we use filters or not there is a lens through which we want to be seen. Even if we aren't curating our photos through comical or silly filters (remember when everyone was posting pics of themselves with the doggy ears and tongue...oh my) or using the lighting and hue filters to make our launch page to look "aesthetic".
The reality is true for our students as well, so many kids prefer to express themselves online by creating an image they can’t afford in real life. It’s easier for them to show emotions through texting rather than talking to someone in person. So these messaging services become a life saver for many students especially if they feel socially awkward.
IRL (in real life) many of our kids wouldn't THINK about approaching a stranger to talk about the family vacation, let alone share a picture of themselves in a bikini with other friends, yet there is a disconnect between these apps and what they feel like affects their "real life". In their recent polling, McAffe discovered that tween and teens continue to interact with strangers online and overshare information, even though they realize that these activities can put them at risk.
About 75% of tweens and teens friend people whom they know in the real world, however, 59% engage with strangers online. And one out of 12 meet the online stranger in real life. This could be because 33% of them say they feel more accepted online than in real life.
Although 90% believe their parents trust them to do what is right online, 45% would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching, 53% close or minimize their web browsers when their parents walk into the room and 50% clear the history of their online activity. This is where apps like SnapChat have helped to teens to hide whatever it is that they are doing.
Are Teens Set Up For Success By These Platforms?
In an unguarded moment when you are NOT talking about social media ask your student:
-Does it bother you to see that your friends are doing something fun and haven't invited you?
-How do you deal with that disappointment?
No wonder so many of our teens are dealing with depression and anxiety. There are a variety of mental health concerns that arise due to the increased usage of these social media platforms and a teens inability to process the sheer AMOUNT of information they have access to. We journeyed into how to spot and help your teen deal with those issues HERE in this post.
The OTHER issue with impulse control has to do with what our teens and tweens post. For instance, imagine that your daughter or son snaps a photo (or tweets) "getting ready to take a shower,” they have no idea that every boy (and even some girls) reading that is now picturing what...cookies baking in the oven? Nope, your child standing fully nude under running water. "NOW WAIT," you protest, "that's too far!" Ask your brother or if your husband is pretty open and honest, ask them what goes through a guy's when a female announces she's getting ready to grab a shower.
Impulse control means as well that we can help our teens to mitigate how they are thought about (hopefully in a non-sexual manner) by teaching them the importance of being WISE about what they post AND who they FOLLOW on these platforms.
We're not even talking about the myriad of young people who are willing to post part nude/or partially dressed photos that are MEANT to arouse the viewers. I have had no fewer than a dozen conversations with young guys, good guys who love Jesus, who were surprised by what Christian classmates "snapped," let alone the girls who are not followers of Jesus.
You HAVE To Be KIDDING
There is an online article by Rolling Stone, that highlights a 3 year old girl on TikTok who was sexually exploited by adult men. They would repost videos/pictures with comments and degrading text even though initially, the photos posted by her mother were meant as innocent and adorable. (Now they are looking into the allegations that her mother may have continued to post them for financial gain.) Though the onine community was outraged by this behavior aimed at the 3 year old, the content remains readily available. If users on these socail media sites like TIkTok are willing to sexually exploit a 3 year old's photos and videos...does that mean that its worth putting your tween/teen at risk? Reread that last sentence and answer it honestly for your family.
It's not just kids who face social pressures these days, we as parents face it as well.
Another layer of complexity in making these decisions is that parents are finding it increasingly difficult to not cave in to the social pressures, not just of their students but of community moms who ask: What's the big deal...just let them get it, stop being such a prude." I mean, who wants to be a prude? It's not just kids who face social pressures these days, we as parents face it as well. You may just have to be willing to ask yourself how far you are willing to go.
So What About SnapChat Specifically?
"Snapchat is a very popular social media app students often use to keep in touch with their friends and family" but it also opens doors to meeting strangers and predators finding students where they are using an in app map where users can share and also see where other users are located all over the world.
The point of SnapChat is to give users a fun way to connect and to send short videos or pictures through out the day so that they can connect with friends. From their website: Snapchat lets you easily talk with friends, view Stories from around the world, and explore news in Discover. Life's more fun when you live in the moment!
The irony of that last statement means that in order to "live in the moment you have to use our app?" To our fully developed brains, we know that is the opposite of what is true. Living in the moment means being off your device, connecting with the people and the place where you are. (Think about how many phone screens you saw at the last concert you went to.) One of the things that most parents and teens don't think about is that SnapChat plays into the teens inability to regulate impulse control. They get a notification (mmmmm....mmmmm....mmmmm) yep it's a snap, "gotta check it now"or I might be missing out on something (the amount of FOMO this creates is incredible).
What Does The Bible Say?
The Bible says in the last days the world will be overrun by people who will be lovers of self. Perhaps it’s a bit of a stretch to say that in the end, “people will be lovers of selfies and selfie-sticks.” There is a tension to face when it comes to an expectation that our social media presence will help to meet a need for satisfaction and self-worth. It’s not an outward expectations, but when a post doesn’t get the amount of likes we expected or our friends don’t immediately chime in with “how cute” we look, we get disappointed And often teens will delete the post. You’ve probably read those words: felt cute, will probably delete later. Prompting a myriad of defensive comments from well-meaning friends who understand this prompt is a role call to see who cares. (In the end it’s usually a cry for help. Not to try to just fix but to listen).
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Phillipians 4:8
This is a great measure of being able to judge what we should post and what we should view while we are on social media. This is also a great way to help make a decision about what movies we should watch and music we listen to as well. I call it PLANTERP to help me remember. It stands for Pure, Lovely, Admirable, Noble, Trustworthy, Excellent, Righteous, and Praiseworthy…then the directive: think on or think about these things. Also consider checking out this resource from Focus on the Family about Teens and their self-worth.
Despite its popularity, parents are right to be concerned about Snapchat. It has a host of issues that can compromise kids' safety.
First, Snapchat doesn't save pictures and messages sent so you can see them later. So it is very hard for parents to monitor their teen's activity on Snapchat. Even if you have a monitoring tool that allows you to see the content of your child's phone remotely, you won't be able to see what was sent and then automatically deleted. That may raise some concerns. (Although we do list a variety of apps available to help monitor SnapChat and Instagram.)
Second, while the photo message disappears after a few seconds, the receiver can take a screenshot of the photo while it's live. That means it's not really gone. (If the person receiving the Snap takes a screenshot of the sent photo SnapChat notifies the sender that a screenshot was taken.)
Thirdly, since teens can write messages on photos, these words disappear with the photos they are attached to, but often the damage done through bullying sticks. Snapchat is a bully’s dream. They can log onto the app, send a bunch of spiteful or malicious texts to people they have on their contact list, and then go about their day, safe in the knowledge that the app will delete all incriminating evidence. Harassment is, therefore, harder for parents to detect.
Finally, because of the lower risks of having a photo eventually making the rounds of the Internet, it's also tempting for teens to use Snapchat for sexting. Snapchat itself admits that up to 25% of users may send sensitive content on a regular basis “experimentally.”
Parents who allow their children to have Snapchat need to have a serious discussion with their kids about the risks associated and with the false sense of security that Snapchat may provide.
Expert advice about making Snapchat safer
1. How parents can talk to their kids about Snapchat
Snapchat is a very fast and addictive social network that can negatively impact teens’ and tween’s self-esteem. It is designed to encourage people to post things daily and be connected at all times. The major problem is that people usually post idealistic photos on Snapchat, thereby creating pressure on everybody else to do the same.
Teens may easily feel dissatisfied if they don’t look fit and beautiful like others on Snapchat. The dissatisfaction may lead to a number of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and many more. Another issue with Snapchat is cyberbullying. Unfortunately, it is not so rare among teens, plus it makes it more difficult to trace since all of the Snapchat posts disappear very quickly.
2. How to get your kids out in the world and off their phones
Laurie A. Couture, LMHC
Snapchat and the screen medium itself have the same addictive effect on the human brain as opioids. Adolescents and young adults are more vulnerable to behavioral addictions than adults because the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that can put the brakes on impulsive behavior, does not completely development until the mid-20s.
Due to their heavy use of screens and apps like Snapchat, teens are also missing out on face-to-face social connections with family and friends, physical activities, time in nature, solitude and hands-on activities that are crucial to optimal neurological, psychological, social and physical development.
I recommend that parents think outside the box and focus on what nature intends for their child's development. Families who seek out educational alternatives such as hands-on, project-based or arts-based schools and homeschooling can help their child escape some of the pressure of the public school peer group and expectations that social media is a requirement for friendships. Assist your teens with setting up activities, groups and events at your home or in the community where teens can have real life experiences and time to connect and have fun.
It’s important for parents to have open communication about all social media. We especially encourage this for Snapchat. The pressure to post perfect looking photos or keep up with their “streaks” can be harmful for teens and tweens’ self esteem. Talking with trusted adults about self-confidence and the importance of knowing your worth outside of social media is a good way to combat the negativity that often comes from Snapchat. Here are some ideas from McAfee about how to help teens navigate their online presence:
Establish rules: Parents should establish pinpointed rules about computer activities including sites the kids can visit and what is and isn’t appropriate behavior online, including the fact that online is forever.
Check in: Kids should be told to immediately report cyberbullying. whether they are witnessing it or being a victim.
Meet their “friends”: If it’s not possible to meet that person in person, then your child shouldn’t be chatting with them online.
Learn their technology: You should know more about the various devices that your kids use than your kids do, not the other way around.
Get their passwords: Parents should have full access to their kids’ devices and social media accounts at all times; they need the passwords.
Have security software on all their devices: Make sure all your kids’ devices and yours have comprehensive security software, like McAfee LiveSafe™ service.
Here Are A Few SnapChat Spying Apps:
Minspy Cell phone tracker: https://minspy.com
OTHER Helpful Blogs:
Our tweens and teens overshare personal information – 50% posted their email address, 30% their phone number and 14% (which is 14% too many) posted their home address, even though 77% know that what is posted online can’t be deleted and 80% have had a conversation with their parents on how to stay safe online
Social media friends are not always friendly – 52% have gotten into a fight because of social media, 50% have gotten into trouble at home or at school and 49% have regretted posted something.
Our kids are still hiding things from us – Although 90% believe their parents trust them to do what is right online, 45% would change their online behavior if they knew their parents were watching, 53% close or minimize their web browsers when their parents walk into the room and 50% clear the history of their online activity