We were in the midst of what I believed to be an important conversation.
“Just a sec mom,” she said promptly after a Snapchat notification popped up on her iPhone.
She stopped me mid-sentence, puckered her lips, rolled her eyes, typed a few lines of copy, and within three seconds, my teenage daughter Snapchatted a few dozen friends.
“Sorry, mom, what were you saying?” she turned back toward me her face void of any trace of remorse.
It was clear: Snapchat had far more influence than I, the parent, and it was time to make some serious changes.
Imbalance of Power
It’s obvious the power apps hold over our lives. In fact, in an attempt to encourage responsible app use, Facebook and Instagram recently announced it would implement tools allowing users to track how much time they spend on the apps. This mom is hoping Snapchat will follow suit.
Since its inception in 2011, Snapchat has become one of the most popular apps with an estimated 187 daily active users. A 2017 study released by Science Daily found that 75% of teens use Snapchat. But it’s not the only app winning our kids affections:
- 76 percent of American teens age 13-17 use Instagram.
- 75 percent of teens use Snapchat.
- 66 percent of teens use Facebook.
- 47 percent of teens use Twitter.
- Fewer than 30 percent of American teens use Tumblr, Twitch, or LinkedIn.
If you have a teen, you understand the dilemma. We know that social ties are essential to a teen’s psychological well-being. We also know that excessive time online can erode self-esteem and cause depression. We can’t just yank our child’s favorite app, but we also can’t let it run in the background of our lives 24/7, right?
What we can do is take some intentional steps to help kids understand their responsibility to use apps in healthy, resilient ways. In our house, taking that step meant addressing — and taming — the elephant in the room: Snapchat. Here are a few things that worked for us you may find helpful.
4 Steps to Help Curb Excessive Snapchatting
- Strive for quality relationships. With so much more information available on the downside of excessive social media use, it’s time to be candid with our kids. Excessive “liking,” carefully-curated photos, and disingenuous interactions online are not meaningful interactions. Stress to kids that nothing compares to genuine, face-to-face relationships with others.
- Zero phone zones. This is a rule we established after one too many snaps hijacked our family time. We agreed that when in the company of others — be it at home, in the car, in a restaurant, at church, at a relative’s house — all digital devices get turned facedown or put in a pocket. By doing this, we immediately increased opportunities for personal connection and decreased opportunities for distraction. This simple but proven strategy has cut my daughter’s Snapchat time considerably.
- Establish a Snapchat curfew. Given the opportunity, teens will Snapchat until the sun comes up. Don’t believe me? Ask them. If not for the body’s physical need for sleep, they’d happily Snapchat through the night. Consider a curfew for devices. This rule will immediately begin to wean your child’s need to Snapchat around the clock.
- Track Snapchat time. Investing in software such as McAfee® Safe Family is an option when trying to strike a healthy tech balance. The software will help with time limits, website filtering, and app blocking. There is also helpful time tracking apps. For the iPhone, there’s Moment, and for Android, there’s Breakfree. Both apps will track how much time you spend on your phone. Seeing this number — in hours — can be a real eye-opener for both adults and kids.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her onTwitter @McAfee_Family. (Disclosures)