What is Snapchat?
Let’s explain this without being patronising. Snapchat is the most popular messaging platform for teenagers. It is an app that young people use to take ‘snaps’ and send ‘chats’. And that’s why it’s called Snapchat. Turns out it’s hard to explain this without being patronising – sorry!
Snapchat can also be used to draw pictures, create stories and send videos. Sometimes the content that young people create only sticks around for a few seconds, sometimes it sticks around forever (technically it all sticks around forever because of digital footprints).
Snapchat is an app that used to freak parents out. That is, until they realised they could use it to give themselves dog ears and make them spew rainbows with the built-in filters, leaving kids everywhere rolling their eyes and saying, “Cool, dad.” (Teenagers sometimes say ‘cool’ when they mean ‘not cool’. Parenting is complicated).
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- Why we need to talk to our teens about 13 Reasons Why
What is Snapmap?
Well, just when you thought you had mastered technology and all the fancy acronyms that came with it. (Like working out that LOL means laugh out loud and not lots of love), technology has taken another crazy step forward and you should know about it.
Snapchat has just released a new feature called Snapmap to freak you out again. This update allows a Snapchat user’s location to be shared on a real world map. That’s right, it can turn your phone into some sort of tracking device, which is a great way to see where your Snapchat friends are! Yay.
It also has the ability to let them know exactly where you are. Yay! And where you live! Yay! (Said with sarcasm). And when you are not at home. Creepy! And when you are down at the park kicking a ball around with your friends. Really creepy! Parents always want to know where their kids are, but they don’t want the whole world knowing where their kids are. So if this is the sort of thing that concerns you as a parent then here’s what you can do.
Create a Snapchat account
If you don’t already have one then you should make a Snapchat account. It’s free, it’s really easy to do and it’s actually quite fun. Make up a cool name like ‘QueenMum’ or if that is taken, try ‘QueenMum72’ because that is the year you were born, and then take photos of your cat. Send selfies to your sister and you’ll start enjoying yourself. You can delete Snapchat off your phone later if you want and no one needs to know that you had fun putting dog ears on your cat.
After you play around on the app for a while, you will get to know exactly how it works and your parental instincts will naturally be aware of any risks that you see. Seriously, understanding something almost always leads to wisdom. Your kids have the understanding part all worked out when it comes to technology, but they can always use more wisdom.
Ask your kid how it works
Kids love having an opportunity to be the expert. Have fun by giving them a fancy teacher name like Professor of Technology, Dr. Google or Flingflong (that last one isn’t technology related, but it is fun to say). Let them teach and give out detentions. Actually no, you probably don’t want to give them too much power.
Once you have given them a fancy name, get them to show you around Snapchat and explain to you how the new Snapmap update works. Just having this conversation will probably give you all of the information that you want to know. They will have a great time feeling like an expert and little do they know, they are disclosing all the information you are looking for around privacy, security and other risks.
It may be tempting to freak out, but don’t. Just let them show you around the app. Be encouraging and ask questions like, “Who can see that photo? Who can send you pictures? How would you stop someone from messaging you? Can you show me how to give the cat dog ears again?” The more you know about it the less scary it will become.
Turn on Ghost Mode
If you are trying to work out if you need to make some rules for this update, we think that a good rule is this – your kid should enable Ghost Mode. When you first install the Snapmap update, you are given privacy options. We recommend your family, your friends, your friends’ families, and your friends’ family cat (the one with dog ears) to select Ghost Mode.
Ghost Mode keeps your location private. It’s the safest option and it’s really easy to turn on. If you select Ghost Mode, you won’t have much to worry about with the Snapmap update. If you’ve already enabled location sharing for Snapmap, tap the settings gear in the top right while viewing the Map, and select Ghost Mode from there.
Get your kid connected
You are probably wondering why anyone would want to share their location with the world. It sounds so risky. It is not just because teenagers have an under-developed pre-frontal cortex that means that they struggle to calculate risk effectively. It is also because teenagers love connection. They are not necessarily addicted to technology but addicted to the social connections that it gives them, and this new update has given people another way to connect but it is probably not the safest way.
The best way to support your kid is to help them to build healthy connections. Go on fun day trips, facilitate great conversations (try our Chatterbox cards below to get the questions rolling), get them involved in sports or youth group or a local circus and make your house an environment they want to invite their friends to. Kids that are well connected with friends and family in real life don’t feel as much pressure to meet that need online.
Book a session with a Family Coach
Sometimes family life is way more challenging than we had ever imagined. We would like it to be a lot more enjoyable, if only we knew how. Family coaching is designed to meet you where you are at, whatever stage you are at on your parenting and relationship journey. We want to be on the journey with you. To find out more and to book a session, click here.