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Child and Adolescent Counseling Blog for Lisa Klipfel, MFT
Snapchat: What's It's Purpose?

Social media is all the rage for adults, teens and now tweens. The question is whether it should include Snapchat. Let me explain what Snapchat is first. It is a picture messaging app that where your photos disappear in a few seconds defined by the user. So, you take a selfie then send it to your friend. When they receive it, it disappears off their device in 10 seconds. The Snapchat developers indicate they wanted a way for people to not have to "manage" their online profile of photos. Photos transmitted are erased from the recipients device and off the snapchat's server.

Disappearing images sounds great, doesn't it? No online embarrassing hairdo photos to deal with. Let's start with the concept of Snapchat. Although the original intent may have been genuine, what it has become and what it stands for needs to be examined. Snapchat is an app where the photos disappear. Why would you need photos to disappear? Are they blurry photos? Are they selfies? Are they embarrassing? Are they images of risks you are taking? Are they brags of something you did? Did you do something bad you want to share? Are they things you wouldn't want your parents to see? The concept of taking and sending photos that you don't want anyone else to see is not a value that many families would agree with. Do you want to teach your children that they need to hide their images? Do you want to teach your children that it's ok to take photos of yourself that might be embarrassing, showing risk, etc? Moreso, share them?

Although many photos are very innocent, the idea is that it is okay to take photos of yourself to share so that no one else with see them. If you knew the receiving individual was malicious, would you want your child to engage in that interchange? Granted most of the time, Snapchat photos are fun and silly. You never really know when something may go awry, and when it does, it turns down hill very quickly.

The second idea is anonymity. While the photo does indeed disappear off the recipients device and the server, sometimes those photos do last forever. Law enforcement hate Snapchat because the photos really are difficulty to track if not impossible. There is a feature within the app where recipients can take a screenshot of the image and sender is notified, but even if that feature is turned off there are other ways that recipients can retain a photo of the disappearing image. If a child believes their image is truly anonymous, they may take more risks within the image. If they knew it was possible that image could end up on the web, they may not ever have taken or sent such an image.

So, what are the options as a parent? It is important to remember that you are their teacher, including technology where they may know more than you do. I recommend that you are the gatekeeper for all apps, downloads, etc for any device that your child uses. This may sound "helicopterish" but it allows you to remain as the parent. You are the authority in the household, despite your teen's growing independence. I definitely do not recommend Snapchat for anyone under the age of 13. Snapchat created SnapKidz for kids under 13, removing the "sending" feature. This allows parents to view the image and removes the anonymity feature. For teens 13-17, the parents must really evaluate what function snapchat would serve in their child's life. If you choose to allow your child to use Snapchat, it's imparitive that teens know never to send any photo of themselves that they wouldn't want their parent, teacher, religious leader, mentor or worst enemy to see; likewise to imagine how they would feel if any of these photos were posted on the internet. It's important that they know that it may feel anonymous, but anyone can snap an image for permanent record. Teens must also know that they must come to you if any image they have created is being held against them, even if they didn't follow the rules. Sometimes when you tell a child they can't have something, it makes that item all the more desirable. Each family must weigh the pros and cons on how to handle the request of, "Can I get Snapchat?".

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