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.
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 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.
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.
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?
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.
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”