When I was a teen I would have loved social media, in particular Snapchat. From a teen’s perspective what is there not to love? You can easily connect with your friends, meet new like-minded friends and do so in creative and fun ways.
Snapchat allows users to send real time-limited photos without a significant fear that an image will find its way to other social media sites where it might live forever. For teens this platform is authentic and fun. Snapchat’s key point of difference to other social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram and TikTok is that it has no permanency. This unfortunately is also what can make it fraught with even more danger.
So, how can we better equip our teens to handle this platform better? And should we be letting them use it at all?
According to one study by the Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) Instagram and Snapchat have the worst impacts on mental health. Experts surveyed teens and young adults 14-23 and found that it can trigger feelings of sadness and social isolation and it makes you compare your life to others. On the flip side, banning social media can also have this effect on them too. You are kind of damned if you do and damned if you don’t and as a parent here lies the great conundrum.
Personally, I am more of the belief that banning teens, just creates more temptation and can lead to resentment and deceitful behaviour. Like it or not social media is part of the fabric of today’s society and we need to all learn how to navigate it safely together. I would rather keep the dialogue open and arm your teen and yourself with the tools to manage it.
Snapchat in particular is as foreign to me as a mobile phone would be to my Mother’s generation. I am much more of an Instagram girl and in recent months TikTok which does seem to be trending ummm…. a bit older!
So here are a few tips I have picked up when it comes to Snapchat and keeping the platform safer:
- By default you have to be mutual friends before you start communicating - talk to your teen about what qualifies as a mutual friend and discuss the implications of letting people you don’t know into your world. I like to think of your social media account as your home, would you invite any old random person off the street for dinner? The rule of thumb is only be friends with people on social media that you are friends with IRL.
- Talk to your teen what to do if they are getting unwanted behaviour. If they screenshot a snap the person who snapped them is instantly notified. Any bad behaviour should be recorded via a screenshot and the person should be blocked and reported immediately. Encourage your teen not to engage in conversation or act in retaliation to that person.
- Snapchat recently introduced Family Centre, a tool that allows parents to see who their teens are friends with on Snapchat in the past seven days, without showing the substance of the conversations. Parents can report accounts that may be concerning directly to Snapcat’s Trust and Safety teams. Teens can also notify parents when they have reported an account or a piece of content on the platform. Teens can also check out a mirrored view so they can see what their parents can see and then everyone is on the same page. Only downside is that it does let everyone your teen is friends with know they are family sharing which may or may not be a problem for your teen!
- Ask your teen to enable ghost mode to prevent location sharing. Snapchat has a snap map which is an interactive map where at any given time you can see where anyone is whether your child is friends with them on Snapchat or not. Please note that if they submit a snap to the Our Story feed on the app it will be tied to a general location. So it is also good to have a conversation around how to balance sharing with friends while still keeping safe.
- Make sure your teen reviews their settings; adjust to ‘can only be contacted by friends’, disable the show me in quick add function, and also change settings to prevent users from searching by phone number.
Now parents please don’t think I have it all together when it comes to social media! Sadly I have had to learn all of this the hard way and I am still learning and trying to navigate it each day. I think the best we can do is to not shy away from social media ourselves and keep our knowledge up in this space. Plus I do encourage you to keep talking to your friends who have teens too as sharing tips is very helpful - at least then you know you are not in it alone!
Lots of love,
Founder - Evre.
To learn more about online bullying and keeping your child safe online check out Netsafe (netsafe.org.nz). If you have immediate concerns do contact the police or go to your child’s school as most schools offer amazing support in this area, you can also report behaviour through the Netsafe site.