I have been talking to parents about Snapchat for a while now. After all, this is by and large one of the most popular apps kids are using at the moment. It is a social network created on the premise that photos and video can be sent to a chosen number of people, viewed for up to 10 seconds and they disappear once viewed. I had played around on snapchat myself, scrolled through the ‘snap stories’ of some young people (with permission) and got the general gist of what it means. I have read a lot about snapchat, looked at the data and most importantly talked to kids.
But as my work with parents and students focuses increasingly on online behaviours and how kids are engaging with these networks, I thought I should delve a little deeper in order to get a greater understanding. Knowing how these networks work, including the benefits and challenges, certainly helps us get a greater perspective of what it is like to be a young person today, and to ensure we are teaching the best behaviours and online habits.
Firstly, here are some definitions in case this is all foreign to you:
Snap: a video, photo or chat that you send to others of your choosing. Alternatively you can send it to your ‘snap story’.
Snap story: a collection of your snaps from a 24 hour period. These can be public or private to your friends only, and stay live for the day, before they disappear.
GeoFilters: allow you to put an overlay over your photo that tells people where you are.
Snapcode: is your personalised snap picture which allows people to easily follow you using the code.
Stickers: literally little stickers you can add to your snaps. There are over 200 to choose from!
Friend emojis: appear next to your friends on your friends list. They represent the relationship you have with them. Eg. new friends get baby face, a 2 week friend gets a red heart, a snap streak (snapping non stop with someone) gets a fire ball.
Lenses: are the funny face filters that you can add to your videos to make yourself look…better…worse or like a dog licking its chops.
Here is some of what I discovered from my week on snapchat….
- Kids had told me Snapchat is like the slumber party with your closest mates, whilst Instagram is more like the big party. In other words, the feeds on Instagram are more curated, they take more time and editing with the photos, whilst Snapchat can be more casual and authentic. On the whole I’d say this was a fair analogy. Most of the young people also seem to use it more for targeting certain friends and thus they used the message feature more than the snap stories, which seemed to be used more by brands and businesses.
- Whilst some people think playing around with funny face filters is another time wasting distraction…well they may well be right, but man did I have some laughs making funny faces with my kids and saving the videos to watch later. I still watch some now and end up in hysterics. So if one is laughing with their children….how can that be wasting time!
- You don’t need to send a photo for 10 seconds. In fact I made mine much shorter, (sometimes 3 seconds is enough) unless there was lots of text, because…..well…. people are busy.
- It’s a great way to chat to your kids (the ones that aren’t too embarrassed to have you hanging out on ‘their’ network!). I had many laughs with photo sharing with my kids and nephews who love to laugh at my sometimes daggy mum/aunty snaps.
- There is a definite sense of being more private. Even though we know about screen shots and we know there are apps out their to ‘undelete’ photos etc, it still feels a little more private when you are sharing with friends. One does get the feeling of having more ‘control’ than many other networks.
- Many used to call it the sexting app. Whilst I wasn’t sending any risqué pictures myself, I can certainly imagine this may be an option for some (see point above). You really wouldn’t want to press the wrong button when sending however!
- You can see some really interesting snippets from peoples day. I saw friends travelling in the US, I watched someone holiday through Indonesia, climb Mt Everest, make a cake, go for a walk, give social media tips and sail a boat. So yes, you can find yourself spending time on stuff you may or may not need to be viewing. But I guess this is pretty much the same with all social networks.
- It’s not just for the kids. Lots of businesses have got on board and they are using it as a great way to connect to their audience. I myself gave a lot more behind the scenes snippets of my day. Once again there is definitely a feeling of having more licence to show more, knowing it is not quite as ‘visible’, permanent or ‘googleable’ (totally a word).
- I didn’t bother getting my news from snapchat, although of course this is possible with accounts from all major news outlets etc. I still stuck to Twitter for my major headlines. In saying that, Twitter got a bit too serious at times this week so snapchat did offer me a little more light relief!
- There is less reliance on ‘likes’ and ‘followers’. Whilst people can chat back to you, there is no likes or hearts to count in order to give kudos to a picture or video. And people are not seeing how many followers you have, who is chatting to you etc…so there is possibly a little less reliance on this app for your self esteem boost or social media standing.
- For those wanting to step in to ‘Facebook live’ territory this can be a great way to practise talking to the camera and hearing your voice replayed. (Does anybody like hearing their voice played back??)
- One of my favourite snappers to follow is Caz from ytravelblog and this is what she had to say about why she is enjoying snapchat:
“I love how real and authentic it is. I love to follow stories of other travellers and it inspires me more than any other platform to travel to those destinations as I can see the real experience. Plus there are no edits or hashtags so it is easy to use and very engaging”
Of course like all social networks there are risks, and usually this comes down to how it is used and the behaviour of those using it.
So yes, there is the danger of being lulled into a false sense of security. Believing that snaps are more private can prevent the same element of scrutiny that one would/should normally observe on other platforms. Of course we are well aware that teens and adults have sent nude photos believing they are safe and only viewed by the recipient, only to have them appear on other social networks at another time. So unless you are going to be ok with everyone seeing your snap, remember to be mindful what you post, just in case it gets in the wrong hands.
The other downside for parents is that it is really hard to monitor. You are obviously unable to see snaps they have been sent or snaps they have already opened. And if you do open one before they do, they will know!
It is for this reason that we need to be sure our kids have been taught appropriate behaviour online…..as I have said many times before “you will never keep up with every app or site your child visits, but we need to make a good attempt at giving them the skills to be safe and smart wherever they go.”
So of course I’m not saying you have to go and open a snapchat account and start snapping away, but for parents, having an understanding of the types of things the technology is capable of and the ways our kids are interacting with others, certainly goes a long way to helping them get the best out of the technology whilst minimising the risks.
And if you are on snapchat or want to give it a go, come and find me @themodernparent for some behind the scenes snaps. 🙂