I first heard about Snapchat last year when talking to a group of teens about technology. They were distressed that their parents kept insisting the app was dangerous. Now wildly popular among teens, Snapchat is becoming trendy among tweens and many parents are now asking, “What is Snapchat? And, should I let my child have it?”
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a photo messaging app that can be downloaded on any smartphone or tablet. Users take photos, videos, write text or create drawings and send them to other users – these are known as snaps. Unlike text messages, these snaps have a time limit set by the user who sent it. Time limits are anywhere between 1 to 10 seconds. After the snap has expired, it is deleted off of the recipients device and Snapchats server. According to Snapchat, users were sending over 700 million photos and videos per day in May of 2014.
Should I let My Child Have Snapchat?
While I advocate that all parents make decisions on what is best for them and their family, I find that there are many inherent problems with the Snapchat and therefore refuse to allow my children to download it. My biggest issue: NOTHING shared can ever completely disappear.
Snapchat teaches tweens and teens the WRONG message when it comes to digital sharing. Children should understand the long-lasting effects and implications anything posted online, on social media or sent digitally could have on their futures. Snapchat gives a false sense of reality.
Plus, we’re not really sure if those snaps disappear. In May of 2013, Forbes posted a story claiming that Snapchat images could still be retrieved with limited technological knowledge. It was subsequently investigated by the Federal Trade Commission and later settled over allegations that it deceived customers. You can read the details here but to summarize, we’re not really sure when or if snaps are being deleted from Snapchat’s server.
And, if Snapchat does delete them it doesn’t prevent a recipient from finding other ways to save images. In November of 2013, teens in Quebec were arrested after sharing naked photos of girls sent through them via Snapchat. How did they save the images? Simple, by taking a screenshot. The sender has no idea recipients are taking a screenshot or using another device to photograph the image.
While Snapchat denies the app promotes sexting, the story above is just one of many examples that can be found of users under age 18 sending nude photos. Inherently, the idea of sending a photo or video that has a limited viewing time is conducive to the practice. In my mind, there is no reason why a tween or teen needs to send a photo, video or drawing that needs to disappear within 10 seconds.
What are your thoughts? How do you feel about Snapchat? Do your tweens/teens have it?