People who use the popular social networking app Snapchat, understand what happens after three consecutive days of messaging the same person. A little flame automatically shows up next to that person’s name signaling that a Snapstreak is officially on. And, keeping that streak alive, is a bigger deal than you might guess.
From that day forward, the Snapstreak continues unless one person fails to respond within the allotted 24-hour window. Slowly but surely, Snapstreaks have become a way of measuring the quality of a friendship for teens.
Streak = Commitment
The longer two users go without breaking the streak — and some streaks can go on for years — the stronger the relationship is perceived to be. Since other users can see how many streaks you have going, displaying Snapstreaks has also become a popularity metric. And, if the streak is broken (either intentionally or unintentionally) well, that speaks volumes as well.
One 18-year-old recently shared with me, “I broke up with my boyfriend but we kept up our streak for a few more weeks. But, once he broke the streak, I knew it was officially over. That day was so sad.” Their streak lasted 457 days. She added: “It can really hurt when a streak ends. Some of my friends get offended if I break a streak and others don’t care as much. It all depends on the person.”
To keep a streak going, a user simply sends or returns a photo (also called a snap). Sometimes it has a short message typed across it, other times, it’s just a picture of the ceiling, a plant, or a light — a random snap to ensure the streak isn’t broken that day.
This particular teen admits that she gets up early or stays up late to make sure she doesn’t break her streaks. “My parents took my phone away one time, and I gave my friend my login to my Snapchat so she could keep up my streaks,” she says. “I was panicked about losing them all because I couldn’t get to my phone for two days while I was grounded.”
So how much time does Snapstreaking take? “I have to spend at least 10 minutes a day keeping up about 45 streaks,” the teen said. “It can be a hassle.”
When I told her that amounted to 70 minutes a week and nearly 2.5 days a year spent maintaining her Snapstreaks, she paused. “Wow. That’s crazy. But I seriously don’t think I can give up my streaks.”
The flip side of Snapstreaks is this: Starting a streak with someone can result in a new friendship. Snapstreaks can give kids a way to keep in touch with multiple people and strengthen their social connections.
The Snapstreak feature, designed to keep people in the app for more extended periods of time, runs contrary to recent app changes by Facebook and Instagram focused on time management. Both apps recently introduced time tracking features to help users be mindful of how much time they spend on the apps.
If your child loves Snapchat, you can assume, he or she has several if not dozens of Snapstreaks going. To make sure steaks don’t get out of control, here are a few family talking points.
Family Talking Points
Respect their culture. While streaks may seem like a silly use of time to an adult, Snapstreaks are a social dynamic many teens value. Streaks may help kids feel included, accepted, and connected to their peers. So if you suspect your child’s Snapchat use is unbalanced, bring up the topic with understanding and respect for the way their digital communities work. Listen to their reasoning before you hand out new rules.
Privacy reminder. Kids may share login information with friends to maintain their Snapstreaks. Remind your kids not to share their passwords with anyone — even best friends. It’s a bad habit to start and can put your child’s privacy at risk.
Discuss the ROI of streaks. Ask questions to spark a conversation regarding streaks. Ask questions about the importance of face-to-face time with friends and what makes a quality relationship. Do the Snapstreak math so your child can see how much time he or she is investing in maintaining their streaks versus the return they get on that time investment (ROI).
Consider a device curfew. Kids are increasingly losing sleep because they take their devices to bed with them. Setting a device curfew will take effort and consistency on your part because kids will rarely hand over their device each night. This rule may not reduce Snapstreaks, but it will immediately allow your child to start banking more sleep and help limit their screen time.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)