‘Ephemeral messaging’ is the term given to instant messaging apps such as Snapchat where there is a time limit on the messages shared and they self-destruct after a few seconds. But are they really gone? Another way to describe them is ‘messaging services that forget’. Or do they? This is important information if you want to be a tech-savvy parenting raising a media safe and savvy child.
Our tween and teen youth love living on the edge where the adults aren’t and, for now, this is what makes Snapchat such a popular meeting and sharing ground for them. They hate the idea of their movements and actions being tracked by the adults in their lives – typical teens. Just as teens used to get up to risque behaviour behind the shed at school, this behaviour now takes place online. It’s a bigger shed too, so more kids can do more risky things than ever before with less fear of an adult walking around the corner and catching them red handed.
There is increasing proof that the belief that their messages self-destruct is actually leading to a change of behaviour with more children who would not normally engage in risky behaviour, giving it a try. Why not? What’s there to lose?
The statistics are there to prove the popularity of self-destructing messages: 20% of teens overall have sent or posted nude or semi-nude pics of themselves. 11% of young teens between 13 and 16 years of age have already done so, and more girls than boys.
Why self destructing messages don’t really disappear
While messages do disappear off the screen within a few seconds on Snapchat, they have not been destroyed and are stored in the databases of the app. The terms and conditions of the app are very clear: whatever is posted on the app becomes the property of the app. Snapchat can do with the content whatever they like. They can sell it and use it in advertising, for a start.
Kids themselves, on the other hand, are always on the look out for ways to beat the system. There is nothing stopping anyone from taking a photo of what’s on their screen before it self-destructs. Should pictures fall into the wrong hands there is always the potential danger that they could be used for the purpose of blackmail, extortion, cyberbullying or reputational harm.
Think even deeper and darker, imagine the pictures fall into the hands of a paedophile or predator. If the location settings of the phone were on when the picture was taken, it’s not difficult to trace it back to the physical location. What if that location is your home or your child’s school? Your child could be placing themselves in physical danger.
Use self-destructing messages wisely
While technology and the internet is neutral, it’s what we/our kids do with it that makes it positive or negative. Encourage your child to always keep their personal reputation uppermost in their minds as it will follow them wherever they may go. Whatever they post on social media sites, including Snapchat, does not disappear. They need to know this, and you need to tell them, so that they use this fascinating tool to enhance their reputation rather than destroying it.
For more information click here for my Tech-Savvy Parenting presentation for parents and for The One Thing You Need to Remember digital safety presentation for learners. For a complete guide to raising safe children in a digital world, read my book, Tech-Savvy Parenting. Last tip: make sure your child has a password/pin protected cellphone and that their passwords for their social media sites are strong. Click here for advice on how to create strong passwords.
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