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Snapchat Guide for Parents

Updated on January 7, 2014
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But, Mom!

"But, mo-ooom." This is the plaintive cry, the soundtrack to parenting, the pre-curser to some over-wrought explanation of how our child is right, and how we are so very, out-datedly, wrong. It is the lament we have all heard, and our only strength comes from knowing we are not alone in suffering this most annoying and trying sound of the teenager in her natural habitat.

As parents, we get it all the time from our tweens and teens. "Mooooom. That's so old-school." Things are different, they claim, from 'back in the day.' Kids are more advanced, growing up faster, and they don't want to be left behind. Conversely, they try to make the argument that our own teenage freedoms are comparable to theirs. Private text conversations, they say, are just like when we got to talk on the phone with our bffs up in our rooms with no one listening in.

And that, dear parents, is where their logic fails. Our phone conversations, no matter how inappropriate, catty or just plain stupid, did not leave an electronic trail proving our idiocy. Additionally, no matter how ridiculous we got on the phone, sexting did not yet exist.

Even Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat
Even Spiegel, co-founder of Snapchat | Source

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is an application that works on both Android and iOS devices which allows users to send photo, text, or video messages. The main difference with Snapchat from other messaging applications is that users choose a duration of between 1 and 10 seconds before the message self-destructs. The application developers claim that the messages are then deleted from both the user's device and the Snapchat servers.

While this app gained near instant popularity with the 13-23 year old crowd as a way to communicate privately, it also became popular as a carefree and easy way to send and receive sexts. Whatever the use, the great appeal behind this application is the ability for messages to disappear.

As an adult, to me the really cool thing about Snapchat is the history behind its development. In the tradition of underdog developers, two Stamford University students, Reggie Brown and Evan Spiegel, created the app in 2011 in Spiegel's father's living room. While a definitive statistic on the number of registered users is not clear, it is approximated that more than 30 million people have Snapchat accounts.

Why worry about Snapchat, Mom?

When this article first began to take shape, the biggest concern I had was that my daughter was using an app that allowed her to have electronic conversations that I would never be able to read. Initially, I wasn't even aware that this app existed. However, because I do occasionally ask my daughter what she has on her phone, I became informed - and alarmed. House rules here are that no IMs or emails can be deleted and mom can ask to see your phone at any time. Snapchat, of course, made this impossible.

In addition, I wasn't totally convinced that the messages were "self-destructing." Was it possible for either the sender or receiver to take a screen shot of the image or message being sent? What about the the possibility of a person taking a picture with a camera or cell phone of the message? Now, Snapchat admits that unopened messages continue to live for some time on the Snapchat server, and Snapchat images have, indeed, been used as evidence in court proceedings.

More recent discoveries have also revealed flaws in the software that now raise altogether different concerns for our children's privacy.

Snapchat Hacked

Along with the safety issues that arise with use of this type of app, it now appears that there is a security breach within the program itself. Although given prior warning, Snapchat developers failed to address flaws within the application.

Earlier this month, the website SnapchatDB.info, released the usernames and phone numbers of 4.6 million Snapchat users. Although they blurred the last two digits of phone numbers, the anonymous hackers were able to reveal significant problems within the app. By significant I mean breaking a trust the public should, in general, have with programs such as these. We trust that our private information is protected.

Reading terms of use and other documentation is certainly a good idea. However, it is not always enough. Giving out our private information to anyone, for any reason, holds inherent risk.

Source

Tips for Using Snapchat

  • Consider why your child wants to use Snapchat. Is it just a novelty, or are they trying to hide something?
  • Become knowledgeable about and compare other messaging apps and programs, such as Facetime, Vine, Skype, and Instant Messenger.
  • If you do choose to allow your child to use Snapchat, make certain they know how to take a screen shot or digital photo of an image or message that is bullying or explicit. Screen shot (or print screen) functions differ for each device.
  • Seems simple - but use this application yourself so that you can experience it first hand and communicate with your child about it. Use it with your child, if possible.
  • Discuss the recent breach in Snapchat privacy with your child. Ask how this information could be misused. Ask what they think the responsibility of the App designer is to the user. Discuss how this could happen with any application or online tool.
  • Make sure your child knows that even children can be charged with child pornography, that this is illegal, and above all - they should have respect for themselves and one another.

    Bottom line: Once an image or message is sent out into the cyber, we lose control of it.

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    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Hi Christy - thank you for reading. It is something I think a lot of parents overlook. It seems too complicated from the outside. But, most kids are willing to train us :)

    • Christy Kirwan profile image

      Christy Kirwan 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Good Hub and good points, elemenopy. Staying informed about technology is such an important part of parenting!

    • elemenopy profile image
      Author

      Mary Rokhvadze 3 years ago from Oneonta, NY

      Thanks for reading. It's amazing how much is out there that we as parents will never even know about. I think acting like I know is half the battle. Keep 'em guessing!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 3 years ago from the short journey

      Interesting to learn about this and glad to see the parent-to-parent tips offered here.