Snapchat Security for Moms

Thanks to Snapchat, watching out for my kids is trickier than ever.

Snapchat, pfff. Life was easier when my kids were all little, and Facebook was a fun startup for college kids. Even though I didn’t grow up online like kids are now, I’m no slouch. I’ve been using social media since its inception. Like Amy Poehler’s character in “Mean Girls,” when it comes to social networking, I often like to think, “I’m not a regular mom, I’m a cool mom.” Heck, I was banging out selfies before my daughter could even hold the phone. 

But despite my best efforts, I find half the time I’m just trying to keep up with my kids online now that they’re teenagers. Facebook seems to have become the place where moms and grandmas hang out. My kids do still use Instagram, and I make sure to follow them and their friends – not to be creepy, just smart. Their moms follow my kids too, and I think it’s great. They know they’re accountable for what they post online, because we can see it. 

And just when I think I’m up to date on the latest apps, along comes Snapchat.

First of all, here’s why Snapchat is cool.

First Cool Thing: Snapchat’s “Discover”

Tap the purple circle at the top of your story feed to use the Discover, you’ll get the Snapchat version of the news and entertainment of the day, made by pros.  Then just tap your favorite content maker to connect with their version of the world.

Snapchat Discover Page

Snapchat Discover Page

Second Cool Thing: Individual Snaps

Snapchat allows you to send a message that will disappear once it has been viewed. Kind of a nice way to demand someone’s undivided attention. On the other hand… this is where Snapchat starts to go south with a lot of users, especially young ones. I’ll discuss more below.

Third Cool Thing: Stories

A few months ago you may have noticed that your Instagram homescreen changed. So did your facebook screen. They introduced “stories”.  All they were really doing  is trying to wow back their users who were loving it on Snapchat already. Cooking a burger? Film it. Eating it now? Film it. Alien’s land in your yard? Film it. Snapchat stitches it together into one seamless story that your followers can watch at their leisure… until it disappears the next day and you start over with a new story.

Last Cool Thing: Filters/Lenses

Snapchat Filters

See, just like that I’m a hipster kitty.
P.S.– thanks for the base layer Snapchat. #notmyglasses #notmyears

Snapchat has given users more tools to express your creativity. You can write on your post, emoji it up, but most of all I like the filters (or in Snapchatese “Lenses). See?

Why Snapchat Scares me and some helpful hints

I have to admit Snapchat, while cool, has kind of thrown me for a loop. There seem to be so many ways to get into trouble or get taken advantage of. Snapchat gives kids an avenue to send potentially compromising photos that they believe will disappear, though these photos can be saved through a simple screenshot on the other end. They can also be groomed by predators through the app, like one Texas father found out when his teenage daughter was groomed by an older man over Snapchat. The father said his daughter eventually met the man at a party and then disappeared. The father, who says his daughter was taken for sex trafficking, tracked his daughter and her alleged captor to an apartment building and was able to rescue her. The captor later pleaded guilty to promoting prostitution of a minor. Though this story is truly terrifying as a parent, I love that the father took matters into his own hands and was able to prevent a tragic ending.

The sad reality is that stories like this one are more than just a cautionary tale. And while that scares me to death, I know I have to make sure I am tech-savvy enough to help my kids stay out of trouble. These safety tips for parents and kids are a great place to start. And while they’re geared for Snapchat, remember that they can apply to a lot of social media platforms.

On a hopeful note…

You may not be able to limit your kids’ Snapchat activity to sending you selfies with funny filters, but if you teach them good safety habits, their online activity doesn’t need to keep you up at night either. Keeping your kids safe online can seem like a scary and daunting task. I often feel overwhelmed when I think about all the new technology that comes out every day that my kids will have access to, but with the right tools in hand, parents can keep their kids safe and help them make wise decisions online.

So just treat social media like you treated the park when they were little. Hang out there.  Watch them play. Be in the conversation so when a bad guy comes around you’re already there.

Thanks guys! Happy Snapping…

and remember, your snaps don’t really  “disappear”

Is Your Child Getting Bullied on Instagram?

How to tell when your child is being bullied on Instagram.

A true example of instagram bullying

Hi, I’m Tara, the mother of three boys and one little 11-year-old girl who loves Instagram. 

Last year, I noticed my daughter acting differently. Turns out that a classmate was giving her a hard time at school and carrying it over to Instagram direct messages. We caught it early and stopped it before it spread. Luckily, our experience was nowhere near the experience of the middle schooler in the heartbreaking story that I’m about to tell… 

Not long ago, a mom (Michele)  in Milwaukie, OR discovered that a few of the kids in her daughter’s school had created an Instagram page titled ‘Hate page for the ugliest girl in school’. The page was about her daughter, Bela. 

Twenty-four of Bela’s “friends” from school followed the page. The comments from some of the kids break my heart. They encouraged Bela to commit suicide because she was “so ugly” and “no one would care”. These bullies were in middle school, 11-13 years old. 

Michele immediately removed her daughter from the school and informed the principal and the police.

She explained, “It’s widespread. You hear stories about it all the time and unfortunately, sometimes it ends with someone losing their life. And that’s what I worry for my daughter, because this is not the first time it’s happened, this is the most extreme. I really worry about her mental state.”

This is not as straight forward as the “mean girls” or schoolyard bullies from the 80’s and 90’s.

Instagram Bullying Statistics

A new study by Ditch the Label found that 1 in 6 kids aged 12-17 have experienced cyber bullying in some form. According to their most recent survey this year, 42% of this cyber bullying took place on Instagram.

Michele’s actions to take her child out of school and contact the authorities were bold, and appropriate. Some parents may wonder whether they should intervene so strongly by involving the school, in Bela’s situation it might have saved her from being the subject of a story with a far worse outcome.

I’m familiar with the “ignore it” and it will go away approach, sometimes that even used to work. But social media pretends a degree of anonymity that let’s kids pile on without having to acknowledge the humanity of the other child at all. Other kids that follow the account are often considered agreeable to the hate speech, just by virtue of following the account. Unless the digital footprint is deleted by the owner it might haunt the victim long after people stop posting.

Instagram, Snapchat, and others are also fertile grounds for revenge photos and other potentially harmful activities.

Mom, Dad, Big brother, Big sister, it’s time to intervene on behalf of the kids we love.

If you know a child that you suspect may be experiencing cyber bullying on Instagram or any other platform, you may find these tips helpful.

7 Tips for Spotting Instagram Bullying 

An actual Instagram page started by a middle-school aged cyber bully near NYC. The police were involved quickly.

Shelly Ward is the Victims Services Administrator for Mesa PD| Mesa Family Advocacy Center. She reached out to us and suggested  7 tips that might help a parent identify that their child is being victimized by a cyber bully.

Emotional changes – Changes in behavior or mood, such as your teenager becoming depressed, withdrawn, anxious or angry, may be a sign that they are being bullied online.

Anxiety at alerts – It might be possible to spot an unusual reaction to receiving a notification alert on a phone or device. Your teenager may be particularly anxious or reluctant to look.

Reluctance to hand over a device – This one is really going to depend on your child. I’m talking about teenagers after all and so in many cases are going to be reluctant to hand over their phones for you to see what they have been doing, but an extreme reaction may be a sign that they are being bullied and really don’t want you to see.

Changes in Grades-

Afraid to go to school or loss of interest in school- 

Sleep issues- including insomnia and/or nightmares

Physical changes- including, but not limited to, loss of appetite,  headaches, stomach aches, etc…


 How to Respond to Instagram Bullying

As a parent, discovering your child is the victim of bullying may be extremely upsetting and the desire to protect them may be overwhelming. It’s important to remember to stay calm and talk to your teenager about what they are experiencing, and working together to develop a response that addresses the core issues. This may involve school authorities and/or law enforcement.  Make it clear you are on your child’s side and that there is nothing to be ashamed of and do whatever you can to help them open up to you and share the details. But also, be brave. Your child might hate the idea of you calling out the bullies, let alone the cops, but please don’t underestimate the potentially devastating consequences of  letting her (or him) “figure it out herself.” 

Your goal is to MAKE IT STOP. So leave no stone unturned.

Save evidence. Screenshots, messages, voice recordings, whatever is available and keep a trail of evidence that you can use once you decide on an appropriate response. 


Please email me, call me, or text me with suggestions about other topics or suggestions.