What teenager or adolescent doesn’t have a SnapChat account and can be seen at most any time posing for silly selfies to send to their friends? I admit, my 13 year old niece talked me into getting an account, to which I was flooded with duck faces, shocked looks, and cheesy grins labeled with messages that could have easily been sent via text messages.
So, what’s the big deal? SnapChat is safe, right? The pictures are deleted, right? All evidence of those selfies, good and bad, are deleted after a maximum of 10 seconds…. Or are they?
I did my own research, after sending only five goofy selfies to my niece. SnapChat keeps ALL pictures. Yes, you heard correctly. Aside from the fact that there is software that can extract it from Android phones, SnapChat keeps a database of every photo sent, along with the sender/receiver’s personal information. (Who really thought those photos would be deleted permanently?)
Ok, so the pictures are not private… What about it?
Let’s talk about sexting. Seriously. SnapChat is one of the best venues for sexting. Do all SnapChat users sext? Of course not. But I’m not naive to the fact that behavior exists frequently among teenagers and adolescents. Aside from the string of humiliation, bullying, and rippling consequences, sexting can lead to dangerous legal consequences. Teenage and adolescent sexting is as known as child pornography, punishable by law. In many cases the offender that receives the picture is a teen him/herself, and STILL can be charged with possession of child pornography.
So what can you, the parent, do? (Aside from deleting SnapChat on your teen’s phone.)
Have a frank, honest discussion with your teen about the dangers of sexting, the biggest of which are legal repercussions. Ask your teenager to be honest with you about his/her behavior, both in sending and receiving SnapChats. Discuss the adolescents’ motives for participating in SnapChat and then affirm their reasons (if they are innocent) instead of telling him/her how stupid they are. An adolescent is already struggling with the idea that no on knows what he/she is going through, especially parents. Be careful with interjecting your opinion when you should be encouraging your teen to be honest with you. Try to understand a big part of his/her desire to engage in SnapChat stems from the longing to belong; and who hasn’t strived to belong? The best overall option is honesty about the dangers, and openness in discussion.