Earlier this month, my 11-year-old began a valiant campaign to be allowed to download Snapchat on his phone. My immediate, straight-from-the-gut answer was a big fat no. We are not a tech-avoidant family. Every single family member has some sort of i-device, both of my children have email accounts and were given permission to text with family members at the age of 8, and I work for Kveller, so—there’s that. In fact, the 11-year-old has a school-issued (and parent-paid-for) laptop and nearly all of his schoolwork is assigned and completed in Google classroom.
In order to educate myself about this new-ish player on the social media scene, a colleague and I had even downloaded Snapchat in an attempt to determine whether there was some practical use for it professionally or for our respective organizations. We still can’t find one. If you have, please let me know.
My chief concern was the ephemeral nature of Snapchat with messages self-destructing after a set amount of time—like mission details given to the hero of an action movie. Knowing that evidence of inappropriate pics or nasty comments can vanish (almost) without a trace plus the average teen/pre-teen’s judgement (or lack thereof) seems like it is just asking for bad behavior. Then there is the screenshot. While the actual Snap disappears, users can take a screenshot of a Snap and then—boom!—your quick designed-to-disappear picture or message lives on. While Snapchat 2.0 now informs you if someone takes a screenshot of your Snap—then what? It is still out there.
My personal worries combined with a wealth of online content discussing the dangers of Snapchat put me firmly in the #NoSnapchat camp.
But, as pre-teens do, the child persisted with the tenacity of a seasoned attorney, countering every single argument and concern. My husband and I were beginning to waver and I started wondering whether I was being too much of an overprotective helicopter parent. So, I did what every parent does these days, and turned to Facebook for advice. I crowdsourced on my personal page and also turned to the brain trust of Kveller writers for advice. Here’s what they said:
Sharon L.: “Instagram yes, Snapchat No.”
Julie S.: “Snapchat is particularly problematic because it deletes everything.”
Carrie C.: “Yes, my 7th grader has it and we talk all the time about what is appropriate, and what to avoid.”
Amy B.: “In high school, yes. And no smart phones until then either.”
Erris K.: “I’m not sure of the answer (I’m leaning toward NO) but I want to add that it’s not ephemeral—it’s supposed to be, but kids can take screenshots, save them, and send them around. I’ve seen the frightening consequences of this particular behavior… I actually feel it’s worse than Instagram.”
Dana M-G.: “My daughter has special needs, so her peers have not yet turned onto having their lives revolve around phones and social media. But my gut says no. A kid this age cannot possibly fathom the long reaching negative consequences from this. They intend something innocent and… in a nanosecond it can go another place entirely; they can be hurt and changed from it.”
Lori S.: “The girls have Instagram…..Snapchat is a definite NO!!”
What did we decide in the end? We remain in the no Snapchat camp for now, our decision bolstered by the discovery that at least six (and probably far more) of his classmates do not have Snapchat, putting him in good company.
Did he like our answer? Not a chance. And I’m sure this will not be our last battle over social media as new apps continue to emerge. However, this exercise showed us that trusting your gut + research + a dash of crowdsourcing remains a fairly solid way to approach most parenting issues—from diapers and starting solids all the way through texting and Snapchat.