What Parents Must Know About Snapchat

How long has your teen’s longest Snapstreak lasted, and who is it with? Could somebody be following your teen using Snap Maps? If you don’t know what these questions mean, you’re not alone – even if you’ve heard of Snapchat, you probably aren’t familiar with all of its features and how those features are being used by teens. But as a parent, the answers to these questions matter when it comes to your teen’s internet habits and online safety. Take a look at some of the things that you should know about Snapchat.

The Basics

At its core, Snapchat is a picture-sharing app. You take a picture, edit it, add captions, filters, or other enhancements, and select a friend or friends to send it to. There’s also a timer that runs from 1 to 10 seconds. Whatever amount of time you choose for your picture is the amount of time your friends will have to view the picture once they access it. After that, it’s gone. 

Right here in the basic design of the site is one of the potential problems for teens. Because snaps have such a short time frame on them, they are sometimes used by teenagers to bully other teenagers. The bullying messages or photographs can be seen by the bullied teen when opening up their Snapchat, but are gone so fast that they leave the bullied teen without any evidence of their experience. 

Of course, it’s not entirely impossible to save a snap – you could take a screenshot, or take a picture of the screen with another device for example. Which leads to a different problem. Some teens will send racy or suggestive snaps, believing that they’re safe because the snap will quickly disappear. However, that’s not always the case. 

Snapstreaks

The state of a Snapstreak could indicate the state of a teen’s friendship or romantic relationship.

Snapstreaks are a Snapchat feature that teens enjoy using with their friends. Basically, to start a streak, two Snapchat users must message each other for three consecutive days. Then they’ll see a small flame icon show up to that person’s name. This means that the streak has started. To keep the streak going, the users just have to keep messaging each other, but if one person fails to respond to the other within 24 hours, the streak dies. 

It sounds harmless, but some teens take their streaks very seriously. They can maintain them for months, or even years. Teens may also feel a lot of pressure to maintain those streaks. They’re often treated as a sign of how much two people value their friendship. Understanding this can help you understand one of the reasons why your teen might panic if you ground them from their phone, or why taking a selfie once a day might be really important to them. Ending a long streak could be seen as letting down a friend. 

Teens keeping multiple streaks going may be spending an inordinate amount of time each day making sure to keep each streak active. Ten minutes a day of sending photos to keep streaks alive may not sound like a lot, but teens who spend that much time on their streaks are losing over an hour a week to the practice. 

Snap Maps

Snap Maps are a more recent addition to the Snapchat app. As you might guess from the name, they allow users to see each other’s locations on a map. The Snap Maps show users’ locations in real time. While you can only see the locations of your friends, it’s important to remember that connecting as friends is very easy on Snapchat and many teens add people who they don’t really know outside of Snapchat. This means that if their location is visible on the map, it could be visible to people who are basically strangers. 

Users can elect to turn their location settings off, or to view the map in Ghost Mode so they can see others but their own location isn’t being broadcast. Teens should use these safeguards to protect their own privacy. 

Snapchat is only one of many apps that teens use and parents need to understand. Parental computer monitoring software can help you keep up on the important apps and websites that your child is using. To find out how it works,  get our risk free trial.

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