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Holier Than Thou IPO: Snapchat and Effective Parenting

It’s important that parents acquaint themselves with their kids’ new technologies.

By Ana Homayoun


(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Snapchat has brilliantly created a fun, fast way for users to connect with one another. Snapchat’s notion of ephemeral messaging — messages that disappear after a few seconds — was revolutionary in how it transformed social media.

Such temporary messaging capitalized on the concerns of social media users in the dream demographic of 13- to 24-year-olds who wanted to send silly messages and funny photographs to friends without worrying about long-term repercussions.

In its IPO document, Snapchat shared that users younger than 25 years old spend more than 30 minutes every day on the app during the fourth quarter of 2016. By the end of 2016, nearly 160 million users sent more than 2.5 billion messages, photos, and videos through the app daily, with the average user opening the app about 18 times a day.

But enmeshed in Snap’s early legacy are its many sexting and cyberbullying controversies.

Since its inception, Snapchat has significantly changed its privacy policy and put remarkable measures in place to protect users. Very little — if anything — fully disappears from Snapchat, and its law enforcement guide explains how the company actively supports legal investigations as required by law. Issues around sexting and cyberbullying are now far less concerning than what was reported by those covering the company in its early years.

One of the reasons nearly 160 million users open Snapchat at least once a day is to maintain their Snapchat Streaks, formed when users send one another a Snap every day for consecutive days. It is a simple and ingeniously addictive way that encourages tweens and teens to open the app again and again.

Tweens and teens have long struggled with poor decision-making and potential distractions, digital or otherwise.

One 15-year-old high school sophomore girl admits she had “around 50 streaks” with different friends that took her several hours a day to maintain. Somedays she sends the same Snap to all of them; other days she personalizes her Snaps — which adds up to a significant amount of time and energy.

For some, Snapchat Streaks are a way of messaging and checking in with friends every day. A 16-year-old high school junior boy says he took care of maintaining his Snapchat Streaks before brushing his teeth in the morning so as to not “worry” about maintaining the Streaks the rest of the day.

Of course, there’s an underbelly to all of this: the sharing of content that was intended to be private (i.e. cyberbullying). But it’s an oversimplification to label social-media apps like Snapchat as “good” or “bad.” But tweens and teens have long struggled with poor decision-making and potential distractions, digital or otherwise. Snapchat is simply a communication tool, and parents would be wise to be acquaint themselves with it, to better speak their children’s rapidly evolving digital language.

According to 2015 research from Common Sense Media, 25 percent of teens who go online believe their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what they do or say online. Thirty percent believe their parents know “a little” or “nothing” about what social-media apps and sites they use.

Teens’ perceptions are key, because if they believe their parents are unaware or uninformed, they are less likely to seek their parents’ guidance and support in times of need. It’s crucial, then, for today’s parents to realize how promoting healthy socialization, effective self-regulation, and overall safety should be paramount objectives.