When Snapchat was launched in 2011, we had no idea what the social sharing platform would become. And like every other social media platform or technological advancement, the teenagers jumped ship from Facebook to Snapchat faster than you can say MySpace.
As a teacher (and a mama), it's important to watch the social media moves of teens. They DRIVE technology trends. Mom's on MySpace? Move to Facebook. Mom's on FB? Move to Instagram. Mom's on IG? Create a "Finsta" and then hop over to Snapchat or YouTube. Teenagers today do not know a life without a cell phone, and they don't remember a time without social media. My 4 year olds will ask me to take a picture of them and "send it to Jaslie on Snapchat!" Twenty-first century teens have been dubbed "digital natives", but the assumption that they know how to RESPONSIBLY utilize social media is a mistake.
You see, when the technology boom happened, parents everywhere threw cell phones into the hands of their young ones. Boasting that now they could "find their kids anywhere", a cell phone became a lifeline in the eyes of parents, but not many sat down to teach their kids how to use them beyond how to dial "home" and "911". And to be fair, cell phones didn't used to function beyond that!
But once social media hit the scene, most parents had no IDEA how to use social media themselves, let alone how to teach their kids how to use it! This is where I would consider myself lucky. If you listen, teenagers will GLADLY teach you how to use the social media that they are on. They love feeling like experts. I've learned a lot from them about technology over the years, and when it comes to tech in the classroom, I always let them drive that bus.
That being said, keeping up with updates to software and applications has helped me tremendously in terms of navigating these murky tech waters, and when I get onto a new social media platform, I always look at it through the eyes of not only other adults or teachers (and how WE can use it), but through the eyes of the KIDS, as well. I think it's just as important to understand what the kids are doing ON social media, as it is to understand how to USE social media, so that we can protect our children.
Besides. If I'm on EVERY SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORM OUT THERE, they will never be able to hide from me. <Insert evil laughing and rubbing hands together here.>
Here are the top 5 things I think every mama (and kid!) should know about Snapchat today:
1. Stranger Snaps. Unless your profile is set to “My Friends”, you can get direct messages from ANYONE. Since setting my profile to ANYONE, I have received chat messages from people asking me who I am and trying to engage me in a convo, and I’ve opened at least 5 messages that made me gasp audibly and tap out of the snap as quickly as possible. And in all honesty, those snaps disappear, so even if your child is FRIENDS with the person, they can send them whatever they want. When I receive inappropriate snaps, I block and report the person immediately. Unfortunately, what I’ve seen cannot be unseen. It’s important to monitor your child’s friends list closely, and keep their profile set to “My Friends”.
2. Snap Map. If your child has Snap Map enabled, I would strongly suggest disabling it. I listened to a Podcast about Snap Map when it came out, and some users tried it out with the 14 year old daughter of one of the podcast's developers. He walked right up to her in the park she was in and asked her if she was on Snap at that moment. She was. Disabling this feature is a little bit tricky. You have to navigate to settings, then See My Location under Who Can... and turn on Ghost Mode. Ain't nobody got time for dat.
3. Screen shots. Make sure to talk to your kids about digital footprints, and what THEY are sending out over the internet. Just because it disappears off of Snapchat in 24 hours doesn’t keep people from taking screenshots. The second you hit ‘publish’ it’s out there FOR GOOD. Your future employers, schools, parents, anyone can find it. People have had their entire reputations and careers ruined over something that they sent out that they thought was private. Talk to your kids about this and make it clear what your family considers to be appropriate and not. Open the line of communication as early as possible so that they always feel comfortable talking to you about what they are encountering on the web!
4. Screencasts. Related to number 3, the new iOS update now allows you to screencast right on your phone. So that 1 minute rant that you go on using the Snapchat video story feature can now be recorded in full and sent out to anyone. Use the video feature for education, tutorials, and outreach. Save your rants for wine night with your girlfriends.
5. Featured Stories. I’ve done some research on these, and I can’t find any rhyme or reason to them. You can subscribe to any company’s featured story and you will get updates from their top headlines at the bottom of your friends feed. Here’s what I hate: They can be about anything. One day I decided to scroll them to see what they were all about, and I found at least 5 stories about sex. Why does this need to be on my feed? I never indicated that this was an area of interest. So does this mean that these can also show up on my kids’ feeds? I’m not ok with this.
The best thing that you can do for yourself and your children is to educate yourself. Open up the lines of communication early. Kids as young as first and second grade are walking into schools with internet-enabled devices, and it’s just a matter of time before they figure out a chat option in their fave web-based game and start chatting up strangers. But if you are open and honest about what could potentially be on the other side of that screen, your children will feel safe coming to talk to you about what they are encountering as they surf. And that is your best protection.