Why Snapchat is Here to Stay and Why Parents Should Care

Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 5.16.51 PMRemember this time last year when Snapchat was this vague, phantom-like disappearing photo app? Well, in just a year’s time, Snapchat has skyrocketed to become the fastest growing app for teens. Between Snapchat and Instagram, teens are spending an unprecedented amount of time communicating with less words and more photos.

This popular app is here to stay. So here are a few Snapchat upgrades and features you need to know about.

  1. Safety Guide for Parents. Recently the Snapchat team got ahead of the looming backlash accusing it of being a primarily a sexting app by publishing A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat. Snapchat also sent out a direct message encouraging users to put their clothes on while using the app. I especially appreciate the wording in the Parent’s guide: As with all social media, respect toward self and others makes us safer. Whether the experience is positive or negative depends so much on how people use the app or service, whether or not they’re really friends, and how they treat each other on Snapchat. Friends may kid around, but most kids treat their friends well. It just never hurts to have a conversation (never a lecture) with them about how they use Snapchat just to be sure. (Snapchat Safety Guide)Screen Shot 2015-02-25 at 6.27.57 PM

    A suggestion from this mom to the Snapchat team: Please keep the direct messages going with weekly snippets to users, such as this great excerpt from your Safety Guide: Be nice – it really helps. Just as in physical settings, people generally react, interact and share things in a friendly way on Snapchat too. Among friends sharing – especially with photos on mobile devices – it’s usually a lighthearted thing, sometimes even goofy. It’s just a shared moment like always, only now it can also be shared from the other side of the planet. (Snapchat Safety Guide)
  1. The popularity of Snapchat ‘Stories.’ Snapchat Stories is a brief video narrative made up by adding individual “snaps” together. A Story lives on a users’ account for 24 hours and can be viewed by friends as a kind of visual update of that users’ day. Here’s what a Snapchat Story looks like. Recently it was reported by Business Insider that some Snapchat stories were attracting “tens of thousands of views,” which is being compared to the massive views of popular television shows views. This set off a huge flare to the business/marketing community. More and more brands are flocking to Snapchat to target market to millennials and younger. Here’s a look at how brands are using Snapchat to market to teens.screen shot 2015-01-27 at 11.50.04 am
  1. Snapcash. Snapcash is a newer, still-evolving feature of Snapchat that allows users to directly send money between users or make retail purchases from Snapchat. While we haven’t seen a lot of movement on this front due to security concerns, with the aggressive business moves being made by Snapchat, you can expect this feature to become more commonplace. Snapchat also launched a Brand-only platform within the app called Discover, which allows users to watch direct content from brands of their choice.
  1. Snapchat Direct Message. Like any other social network, direct messages through networks provide users private, one-on-one access for conversation. And, similar to other networks, the best approach to monitoring your teens activity on any social network is to engage in consistent conversation around responsibility and respect—for themselves and others. A random monitoring of your teen’s friends lists and apps is also recommended.
  1. Reality Check Required. With Snapchat’s mind-blowing popularity (now ranked the fastest-growing app), it’s nearly impossible to keep it away from a teen with a smartphone. It’s simply too much fun. We recommend you consistently give your teen a reality check reminding her that despite Snapchat’s ability to make photos “vanish,” that’s simply not true. Several Snapchat data hacks have already happened and there are third-party apps widely available that allow users to take screen shots of any Snapchat. Kids know this, they just need to be reminded (teenage brain syndrome) and that’s where the role of you, parent, become crucial to her wired world.

Without sounding like I’m giving a huge thumbs up to Snapchat, I will say the way I’ve seen my own kids using it thus far, is social and fun-focused. I use Snapchat to send them messages as well (my attempt to look cool . . . however, this is one app that just isn’t intuitive to me!)

However, as I’ve written in the past, any time an app includes the option of anonymity, it’s a magnet for reckless behavior if not by your teen, then someone elses’. Remember to require (they won’t volunteer) your kids to go dark and shut off their phones for specific periods each day to preserve (and cultivate) healthy communication habits within the family and strong emotional connection.



Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @McAfee_Family.

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