Snapchat, a popular picture messaging app, has been hacked. This app’s claim to fame is that users are able to send images to other users that will “disappear” after a certain amount of time (usually 1-10 seconds). However, up to 200,000 personal images have been stolen, making this the largest leak of personal photos ever and further proving that
the idea of “disappearing” electronic images is a hoax. Even with this knowledge, it is a hoax than many adolescents fall prey to. I had concerns about Snapchat in the past, but after this development, Snapchat needs to become a topic at dinner tonight in any household that contains a teenager. Here is what parents need to know:

  • This leak is being referred to as the “Snappening.” For making you sound that much cooler with your adolescent, you’re welcome. 😉
  • Snapchat has approximately 100 million users, so even if your teenager doesn’t personally use it, most of their friends do.
  • 50% of Snapchat users are between the age of 13-17 years old. Yes, that is approximately 50 million minors free to post pictures under the guise that after a few seconds they will be gone forever. Yikes!
  • Sexting, sending sexually explicit photographs or messages, is becoming a rampant problem among teenagers. According to the FBI, 20% of teenagers have sent naked or semi-naked pictures of themselves or posted them online. Since its creation, Snapchat has always been a popular way of sexting. There is even some documentation that the founders of Snapchat made it for young people would have a “safe” place to sext. However, as obvious as it sounds to an adult, there is no safe way to sext, and your teenager needs to be told that. Snapchat gives young people a false sense of security and parents have no way of monitoring the types of images their children are sending.

I love these recommendation from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and I would definitely use this development with Snapchat to talk about sexting prevention and responsible electronic use with your teenager. Here are some talking points:

  • Think about the consequences of taking, sending, or forwarding a sexual picture of yourself or someone else underage. You could get kicked off of sports teams, face humiliation, lose educational opportunities, and even get in trouble with the law.
  • Never take images of yourself that you wouldn’t want everyone—your classmates, your teachers, your family, or your employers—to see.
  • Before hitting send, remember that you cannot control where this image may travel. What you send to a boyfriend or girlfriend easily could end up with their friends, and their friends, and their friends.
  • If you forward a sexual picture of someone underage, you are as responsible for this image as the original sender. You could face child pornography charges, go to jail, and have to register as a sex offender.

I think all parents need to monitor their children’s use of social media and electronic devices. I encourage parents to have their children’s password and regularly check in and see what’s going on in their social media life. As adolescents are still socially developing and growing, they need guidance on how to responsibly use these many various social platforms. Because Snapchat doesn’t leave a paper trailer per se for parents to openly discuss with their children, I would recommend that parents avoid allowing their children to interact on this app and continue teaching responsible social media and electronic use.

 

What do you think? What electronic rules/ guidelines have worked well in your house? Please leave me a comment below!