snapchat fire image

Information published recently by JAMA Pediatrics should have parents of tweens and teens on alert. The authors analyzed data from 39 previous research projects, which combined, had 110,380 participants, all between the ages of 11 and 18. They reported that since 2008, sexting among tweens and teens has been on the rise, not surprising with teenagers, but 11-year-olds?

Sheri Madigan, an assistant professor in the department of psychology at the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute at the University of Calgary in Canada said, “The topic is of pressing concern for most parents, who are faced with the double threat of trying to understand the workings of the digital world, while also having to navigate conversations around sexual behavior with their teens.” Madigan went on to say that tweens and teens “lack awareness of digital security and safety” especially when it comes to sexting. “Sexting does become a problem when youth are pressured or coerced into sexting, it is also a problem when teens fail to realize the potential consequences of sending nude images or videos. They may not realize or appreciate the potential permanence of the sent images.” Kids have a false sense of security, specifically when it comes to Snapchat. Photos or videos that disappear after a few seconds can be recorded by the recipient, click here to see 8 ways kids can record someone else Snaps.

 Snapchat: Streaks and Snap Map

  1. Streaks. What is a Streak? A Streak is given to users who have sent each other Snaps consistently for two days or more making it highly addictive for the adolescent brain. A fire emoji (?) will appear next to a friend’s name along with a number which is a tally of the number of days you have consistently messaged someone back and forth, creating peer pressure and a digital popularity contest.
  2. Snap Map lets users pinch in to zoom in on another users location. This opens the door for predators who can use geolocation to see exactly where your child is at the moment they post. The danger here is that most teens add their Snapchat usernames on other social media apps, like Instagram. Even if your child’s Instagram account is private, anyone can view their bio, which is often where other screen handles can be found. This makes it too easy for a stranger to find your child on Snap Map.

Since Snapchat introduced Streaks in March of 2016, I have noticed a trend emerging among the teens and tweens I see in my practice, one that can have long-term consequences and can damage a child’s reputation. Despite our best efforts to educate, kids still don’t seem to understand the risks in sharing their passwords with their peers. Allowing friends to log on for you is dangerous. Kids who are desperate to keep their Streak alive and maybe have had their phone taken away, misplaced it, or let it run out of battery life, will sometimes ask friends to log in for them to keep their Streak going. Relationships, specifically among tweens, can be short-lived and dramatic. A best friend today may turn out to be an enemy tomorrow and nobody would want an enemy to have access to their social media accounts.

Last week I was meeting with a parent of a 12-year-old girl who has both anxiety and depression. In an effort to better understand where this child’s anxiety and depression might be coming from, I asked mom to tell me about her social media habits. The mom told me that she mostly uses Snapchat and does so appropriately. I asked her how she knew that was true? There was a long pause, “because I know my daughter” she said. I said, “Yes, but how do you know she is using Snapchat appropriately when the photos and videos disappear after 10 seconds? You never see what is on her Snapchat.” After another long pause, the mom said, “I guess you are right, I don’t know.”

Assuming that your 12-year-old child is using social media in an appropriate way is not smart parenting. Parents today need to be smarter. The reality is that the smartphone is a space like any other that your child occupies, and it needs your parenting.

Would you just assume your child is doing well in school? No, you would attend the parent-teacher conference and you would look at their report card. You wouldn’t assume that your 12-year-old was actually going to the mall with a friend, you would check in with the other parent to confirm the plan right?

It is risky and potentially dangerous for parents to assume everything is ok in cyberspace. Use the smartest parenting tool on the market to be sure that everything is ok in cyberspace. Social Judo is where smart parents become smarter parents. Real-time alerts about the things that every parent is concerned about sent directly to a parents phone. What is smarter than that?


Andrea Difilippo is a Licensed Independent Clinical Social Worker, nationally recognized parenting expert and Chief Parenting Officer with Social Judo.