Published on January 29th, 2019 | by Sunit Nandi


Making Sense Of Snapchat: A Guide For The Not-So-Savvy

Twitter is full of adults arguing, and Facebook is for parents posting pictures of their kids – but where are all the teenagers hanging out these days? Nearly two decades into the meteoric rise of social media, teens have moved through a range of sites and apps and have, in recent years, settled on Snapchat. The trouble is, if you’re an adult, Snapchat may seem like it was intentionally designed to exclude you, and you’re not entirely wrong. It’s a tough platform to understand and even harder to master.

Luckily, if your primary goal is to monitor your child’s Snapchat use, you only need to understand the basics – and if elementary school kids can figure it out, then you can too. So open your Snapchat app and take a look around; here’s the 411 on this popular platform.

The Premise

In order to understand why tweens and teens like Snapchat so much, it helps to look at the platform’s basic premise. At its core, Snapchat is supposed to be a disappearing message service; you enter your phone number, choose a user name, craft a Bitmoji, and send messages and short videos to individuals or groups of friends. After they’re viewed, Snapchat messages disappear – or at least they’re supposed to disappear, but as we all know, the internet is forever.

Though it can be tricky for adults to use, young people are attracted to the platform’s bright colors, stickers, image filters that transform users into bunnies, and other add-ons, and of course, they’re wooed by the platform’s promise of impermanence. But young users also know exactly how to capture those messages, and in many cases, teens have leveraged Snapchat messages against each other in acts of cyberbullying.

Tracking – It Goes Both Ways

If your child is new to Snapchat, you may have missed the fact that the app includes a location tracker that users can employ to find their friends; knowns as a Snap Map, this is an opt-in feature, so make sure your child doesn’t have it activated. While it can be appealing to know exactly where your child is via a popular app, there are more secure ways you can get that information, and you don’t want them revealing their location to all their contacts, 24/7.

Instead of relying on Snap Map, a better way to keep track of your child’s Snapchat use is by installing a Snapchat tracker application. Such trackers “spy” on your child’s Snapchat activities so that you can see messages they’re sending, whose contacting them, and how much time they’re spending on the platform. You can also make sure your child isn’t receiving inappropriate contact via the platform, as many teens use Snapchat to send nude photos and other potentially harmful messages.

Learn The Lingo

In addition to the learning curve involved in using Snapchat, as a parent, you also need to learn the platform’s language, and one of the most important terms to understand is a “streak.” A Snapchat streak is when two people directly message each other every day, with no skipped or missed days, and many teens pride themselves on maintaining months-long streaks with their friends. Problems arise, though, when Snapchat streaks are used as a proxy for social loyalty; teens may interpret failure to maintain a streak as a lack of commitment to a friendship, and this can lead to obsessive behaviors and even tech addiction. That’s why it’s important to be aware if your child seems preoccupied with their Snapchat streak – they could really be worried about their friendships and social standing.

Another important term in the Snapchat lexicon is Discover. The Discover section of the app is a newer, curated element that features popular media channels and Snapchat celebrities. Despite the app’s popularity with minors, though, the Discover section is often populated with sexually explicit content and adult themes. It can be difficult to know what your child is seeing via Snapchat’s Discover feature, so trying to keep the lines of communication open.

In all likelihood, teens will have moved on to a different social media platform by 2020, but for now, Snapchat is where all the action is, and parents need to keep their eyes open for bad behavior. And though the app can be a bit confusing, mastering its intricacies will give you access to your teen’s inner world and social milieu – but hopefully, their next app of choice will be a little easier to understand.

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I'm the leader of Techno FAQ. Also an engineering college student with immense interest in science and technology. Other interests include literature, coin collecting, gardening and photography. Always wish to live life like there's no tomorrow.

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