Do you remember the old Atari video game Frogger? It’s the one where you have to maneuver a frog safely through the dangers of a busy highway and river back to its home. Whenever I am in a parking lot with children, I can’t help think of the game Frogger. There are so many cars coming in and out from all directions. My head is on a swivel and my blood pressure elevates until we get safely in the car. The kids, on the other hand, are blissfully unaware of the risks. They would run through the parking lot if
we let them. In fact, they have been mad at times when we made our own kids or siblings hold our hands or walk right next to us. I have had to educate them on what to look out for and how to anticipate potential dangers. Eventually, they will be able to navigate their own way without our having to point it out (hopefully).
The dangerous parking lot for tweens and teens is social media. There are risks everywhere and at that age, they do not have the maturity and thought process to navigate it safely. They need us to help them through it, but the problem is it changes so quickly it can be tough for parents to keep up. We’ve got you covered. One of the mahjor social media platforms that most tweens and teens use these days is Snapchat. It’s important for you to discuss with them the potential lurking dangers and risk factors. Here are just some of the dangers of Snapchat to discuss with your kids.
Pro-Tip: These highlighted risks are also inherent to all other social media platforms.
A False Sense of Security
“Teens on Snapchat become emboldened to post more risque pictures of themselves.”
Videos and pictures sent on Snapchat disappear after a certain period of time. Many teens and tweens have a false sense of security that anything posted will be gone in a short time. Therefore, teens on Snapchat become emboldened to post more risque pictures of themselves. Others may take a screen shot, but if so the one who posted the photo is notified who did it. This gives a small deterrent to screen shots, but kids are smart. They circumvent the notification by taking a photo of the picture with another cell phone. Then they can have the photo permanently without the poster knowing and do anything with it.
Many teens and tweens have a false sense of security that anything posted will be gone in a short time. Therefore, teens on Snapchat become emboldened to post more risque pictures of themselves.
The Internet is Permanent
I repeat: The internet is permanent. Kids need to know that anything posted to the internet is permanent regardless of whether it “disappears” or not. In the case of Snapchat, their terms specifically state that any photo or video posted to Snapchat
officially belongs to Snapchat. This means they can redistribute it and sell if they choose.
Cyber Bullying and Exclusivity
Any social media platform will be a place where cyber bullying will take place. Snapchat pictures can be captured as explained above and then edited easily with disparaging, embarrassing, or even graphic pictures. Snapchat also makes it easy for teens to be exclusive. It gives a feature where a user could block individuals from seeing certain posts. It happens often and teens consistently feel singled out and excluded. This is nothing new to teen culture, but it is another area they need help navigating.
The internet is permanent. Even deleted and archived posts are permanent.
Finally, there are the online predators who try to connect with unsuspecting teenagers to exploit or even gain sensitive information that can be used to extort, garner personal information and solicit illicit materials and substances towards. One young Snapchat user told me she receives requests to connect from strangers all of the time. Be sure to have a conversation about this risk. They should never connect to anyone who isn’t a physically known friend. And private networks simply don't work. Your online network is only as secure as your friends' networks.
The more followers you have, the more vulnerable you are to predators.
In February, Dr. Laura Berman announced that her teenage son got the drugs from a drug dealer that connected with him on Snapchat. Both she and her husband told NBC News there was no way their son knew he was getting drugs laced with fentanyl.
"My heart is completely shattered and I am not sure how to keep breathing. I post this now only so that not one more kid dies," Berman said in her said. "We watched him so closely. Straight A student. Getting ready for college. Experimentation gone bad. He got the drugs delivered to the house. Please watch your kids and WATCH SNAPCHAT especially. That’s how they get them."
In a statement, Snapchat said it has a zero tolerance policy for using the platform to buy or sell illegal drugs.
“Our deepest sympathies are with the family and friends of Samuel Berman Chapman and we are heartbroken by his passing,” Snapchat’s statement said. “We are committed to working together with law enforcement in this case and in all instances where Snapchat is used for illegal purposes.”
Yet social media companies have barred law enforcement intervention within their applications time and time again. Monitoring and reporting services for illicit and illegal activities on social media are flawed (at best). What does Zero Tolerance really mean for social media platforms?
Check out this expose on Drugs and Social Media and see if you're still comfortable with playing around with social media or if it's time to go cold turkey.