Q&A: Would You Let Your Kids Use Snapchat and Instagram?
I was recently asked if I would allow my daughters to use Snapchat and Instagram. As a reminder, my daughters are 10, 10, 13 and 13.
Whilst the two apps compete for the same audience, and there is some functionality overlap, we have taken the approach in our household that the two are quite different. In short, I allow Instagram, but not Snapchat.
Instagram is mostly about posting photos and photo stories. My kids will take photos and post them, play with the filters and tag their friends. I insist that their account is private and they only accept followers who they know, and who are family or age-appropriate.
There are some further rules though. They must always tell us upfront if they change their password so we always have it, and when we do random checks on their phones, if we can't immediately access everything, they lose it all. Additionally, they are not allowed to use the messaging feature, in most cases. With this framework, I feel pretty good about it, and it allows them to take part in something creative and social with their friends and family.
Snapchat differs because the content disappears once it has been sent or received. There is no record for parents to review, and to guide their child when they inadvertently stray too near the lines. With no way to know what's going on, I am uncomfortable, and it's a hard no.
That can be tough. Snapchat has created some pretty fun features that have nothing to do with messaging. One of our kids loves using snapchat on our phones to transform their face in funny ways for instance. Kids want to use those. I would suggest with Snapchat that they do that on your phones, not on theirs.
Finally, both platforms raise the question of what should be shared publicly, and what should not.
For younger kids, simple guidance is often enough, i.e. no swimsuit photos (or whatever your comfort level is), but as they get older it's important to address 'sexting' (the sharing of nude photos or videos).
Sexting is insanely common amongst young teens. They are a generation that doesn't fear privacy enough. And yes, this even applies to your little angels. In the heat of a moment, it's often seen as harmless to snap a quick pic, and another, and send it off. Whilst Snapchat is meant to be about self-destructing photos, just do google searches to discover that there are countless photos being shared that the creator never intended to be.
We have talked more about this in the book, which you can download for free, but as high level advice, the best lesson to give them is that if they don't want other people to see it, don't create it.
I asked my girls to think about how they would feel if I found it online, or their mum, or their grandparents. Seemed to sink in.