We wrote a post last year titled “Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?”
Official age limit aside, our conclusion in that post was, “if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior.” While it wasn’t the topic of that post, the same goes for 13 and 14-year olds.
We stick by that conclusion for the most part, but we were struck by a comment left by a reader under that post, which you can read below (emphasis added):
“My parents still won’t let me get it. I am 13 and I never get in trouble. They don’t understand how much I don’t get included into [because] nobody uses text messages anymore. I just hope they understand how much I get picked on at school for being the only one in the whole grade without it. And to be honest everyone just uses it to text and connect with people it would be weird to just randomly text.”
We’ll be the first to say that “everybody else is doing it” is never enough reason for parents to say yes to something. However, we acknowledge that the pressure is on this girl’s parents to do just that. If as this girl asserts, she is the only one in her group of friends who is not using Snapchat, her parents have put her in an unfortunate situation.
From what we’ve seen, there are groups of 8th graders where every kid has a smartphone and is using Snapchat. We have no doubt that some of them are using it inappropriately, and there is no foolproof way for parents to guard against an impromptu gaffe.
If this girl is as responsible as she says she is (we admit there’s no way of knowing that), we’d encourage the parents to let her use Snapchat.
That isn’t the end of our advice. Saying, “Yes” is just the beginning of parenting with respect to Snapchat, or any other social network or app.
Lay out firm guidelines: Be very specific as to what kind of behavior is appropriate. Sexting is never okay. Neither is cyberbullying. Talk about how she should react when she sees a friend being cyberbullied. Talk about which types of friend requests she should accept. Tell her to treat every post as if it’s public and permanent.
Agree what will happen if she violates the rules: If she runs afoul of your guidelines, will she lose her Snapchat privileges? Her phone? Spell it out beforehand, but try not to put her in a position where she will be reluctant to come to you with problems.
Monitor activity: You won’t be able to monitor all of her Snapchat activity. You should be able to get a good idea of how she’s using the app if you talk to her about it often, and you should.
Do some research: There is plenty of content on the web about how teens are actually using Snapchat. By learning a little about Snapchat, you can greatly increase the meaning in the conversations you have with your teen.
Smartphones are definitely here to stay, and Snapchat looks like it is as well. Saying yes to Snapchat can increase your parenting workload an your stress level, but at some point it is the right thing to do.
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