Messaging app Snapchat’s latest update has reportedly caused at least one high school classroom to descend into chaos. Many parents are no doubt wondering why an app update would generate such a strong reaction.
To help answer that question, we have everything you need to know about last week’s update to the app teenagers love. But first, for those unfamiliar with Snapchat, here’s a quick rundown on the super popular app.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a messaging app that lets users send pictures and short videos to one another, as well as add text and drawings to messages. Senders set a time limit, and once opened by the recipient, messages “disappear.”
Why Should I Care?
The concern is the false sense of security Snapchat can give young users. Since pictures and videos “self-destruct” after a set number of seconds, kids may be more likely to send content that they might not send otherwise, because they (wrongly) assume that it won’t stick around. As a result, Snapchat has earned a reputation as a sexting app.
In fact, nothing on the internet ever really goes away, and Snapchat is no exception. Pictures aren’t really deleted at all—they’re just hidden. In addition to still being on your device, they could also still be saved on Snapchat’s servers. Plus, while senders are notified when a screenshot is taken normally, there are workarounds that let users take screenshots secretly, without notifying the sender. That’s a major privacy concern, one that may not be completely understood by the app’s biggest demographic—teenagers and young adults ages 13-23.
What’s in the Latest Snapchat Update?
Snapchat’s new update adds text messaging and video chatting to the app, both of which also “disappear” after the conversation ends. Of course, just as with other features, the mistaken belief that the app is private could lead users to use it for inappropriate video chatting and text messaging. This could be an especially attractive feature for teens whose parents monitor their phone usage.
The app is also apparently a huge distraction. When the update dropped last Thursday, a slew of articles quickly followed, all inspired by one teacher’s tweet about its effect on her class. According to published reports, the update caused near anarchy as students rushed to download the update and try it out. “They seriously could not keep away from it,” the teacher reportedly said. According to another article, and the cultural barometer that is Twitter, teenagers don’t actually seem to like the update, so it remains to be seen whether users will adapt to or abandon the new Snapchat.
6 Snapchat Tips for Parents
- Snapchat’s age limit is 13. Don’t let kids have an account if they’re too young.
- If you have teens that want to use the app and you trust them to do so responsibly, make sure that their privacy settings are set to only allow snaps from friends.
- Set limits, including a “lights out” time for devices. Don’t let kids use devices after hours.
- Make a family agreement about acceptable media usage, including consequences for violating the agreement.
- Talk about the concept of a digital footprint. Make sure kids know that their actions online can follow them offline.
- Maintain an ongoing, open conversation with kids about their media use. Make sure kids know that they can and should come to you if something makes them uncomfortable or is hurtful.
For more tips, review our full guide to keeping kids safe online.