If your children are using or begging to use Instagram, Snapchat, Vine, or the many other apps on their digital devices that share media, it’s time to get serious about conversations on social media and image sharing. Moreover, many other digital device apps exist or suddenly appear that also encourage sharing. (Check out my post that demonstrates just how apps multiply and catch on with kids.)
Sharing apps make users, especially young people, feel like they can have and keep secrets with their friends. Children, and adults, too, like the apps because they claim to offer a modicum privacy and because any media that they share will self-destruct within a few seconds. Voilà – it’s disappeared!
Well, the images have not truly disappeared, because the digital footprints we make are never gone completely. Our digital markers are always lying around somewhere, especially if the message receiver makes a quick copy. It is amazing how easy and fast it is to copy an image before it self-distructs.
And we all know that 21st Century children can make judgement errors. While pre-adolescents and teens are heavy users of apps and share lots of photos and videos with others, by definition they occasionally venture into out-of-bounds territory. While many mistakes do not reach the crisis point of a sexting situation, the bottom line is that some kids who share media can err in judgement and can be publicly embarrassed and terribly humiliated.
According to a May 8, 2014 New York Times article, Off the Record in a Chat App? Don’t Be Sure, the Federal Communications.Commission (FCC) declared that Snapchat’s claims of disappearing messages and privacy are tenuous. So now is a good time to sit down with kids and review the situation — emphasizing that none of us has much privacy anymore, no matter what app makers claim. The privacy which many pre-adolescents and teens thought that they had, does not exist, according to Times reporter Jenna Wortham, who also wrote in detail about the settlement with the FCC and the terms that Snapchat has agreed to.
Also take a look at the FCC’s memo, aptly titled Snapchat Settles FTC Charges That Promises of Disappearing Messages Were False. It states:
Because the service’s deletion feature only functions in the official Snapchat app, recipients can use these widely available third-party apps to view and save snaps indefinitely. Indeed, such third-party apps have been downloaded millions of times. Despite a security researcher warning the company about this possibility, the complaint alleges, Snapchat continued to misrepresent that the sender controls how long a recipient can view a snap.
Read both of these articles carefully and decide to start an ongoing conversation with your children about the good and not so good aspects of sharing media. Think about privacy — yours and theirs. Do we really have ANY privacy these days? Can we do anything in secret and truly keep it secret? The answer is not very often, and your children need to hear this again and again.
It’s a good plan to talk about several topics — that programmers and coders can often figure out workarounds for just about any app; that most secrets are better shared face-to-face and maybe not even then; and that companies may claim things that they cannot carry out. Keep the substance of your conversations focused on helping your child become a more savvy and careful digital citizen, because strong citizenship skills will go a long way toward supporting their success in a connected world.
Social Media Sharing Resources
- When to Share an Image Infographic – Common Sense Media, great image to print out and post.
- Talking to Kids and Teens About Social Media and Sexting – American Academy of Pediatrics
- Guide for Contracts and Agreements for Digital Kids – MediaTechParenting.net
- That’s Not Cool – an MTV resource developed for younger teens
- Digital Footprints Video – Center for Investigative Reporting and NPR
- Why Kids Sext – The Atlantic, October 2014
- Sexting: What Kids Need to Know – Nemours Children’s Health System
- Tips to Prevent Teen Sexting – Connect Safely.org – good tips organized section for parents and teens
- Managing Cell Phones – Center on Child & Media Health (Boston Children’s Hospital)