Although I am not a mother myself yet, I often wonder how I am going deal with social media and my kids when the time comes. Parents already have so much to worry about: they are responsible for keeping a tiny human alive for gods sake!! Then throw a whole digital world on top of that and I can just imagine how challenging it is to raise a family today.
I have been thinking about this a lot lately. My main worry is that so many kids are using the app Snapchat, when a lot of parents are not fully aware of all its features. So, I decided to write this blog in hopes that it might help a couple of Mums and Dads to learn about the app.
2017 was the year of Snapchat for me. As I travelled, I snapped my way from city to city and I enjoyed lots of its features. The selfie filters are god-sent on days when you just can’t be bothered! (Instant, longer eyelashes and smoother skin? Eh, Yes Please!!) However, as much I enjoyed the app, I also found myself a little irritated by it too. I was being force fed content that I just wasn’t interested in. As a result, I found myself using it less and less, opting instead for Instagram stories when I’m on the go.
Snapchat, for those who aren’t familiar, is a photo messaging app. You can send photos and videos to people which disappear after a few seconds. These can be ‘screenshotted’ though, so they are never totally disposable.
Snapchat also displays your exact location if you have this setting enabled. It shows where you are, right down to the building you are in – scary stuff when you think of young children using it.
Here’s a screenshot of my location as I wrote this – it even knew I was on the train:
The messaging service comes with its own risks for young users. But it is Snapchats ‘Discover’ feature that really shocks me. This is the part of Snapchat where you can easily find content from publishers and popular Snapchat accounts. There is an endless supply of accounts that focus on Food, Travel, Beauty, Sport and Music, to name a few. However, even to me as a fairly liberal adult, a lot of the content is just too much. Image after Image of sexualised people (mainly women). Graphically written articles and violent content. They all play a huge part of Snapchat.
Recently, I did a bit of a spring clean and chose to adjust my settings so certain publishers don’t appear anymore. As I went in and made the change to my account it made me think about who else was looking at this stuff every day. Surely children who use Snapchat aren’t being served the same articles as adults? Is there an U18 version for kids?
This morning I decided to dig a little deeper. I created a new ‘undercover’ snapchat account with the idea of seeing the app from a child’s perspective. I started by entering a date of birth that would make me 10 years old. I was given an error message saying I wasn’t eligible. I then immediately returned to the app, using the same email address, and increased my age to 13 years old. 13 is the minimum required age for a snapchat user. I was straight in. I swiped to the Discover section (one click) and was greeted with the exact same stories as on my adult account. The publishers I had blocked were back to the top of my screen, waiting for my 13-year-old eyes to dive in.
This was my screen before I clicked into anything:
As they say, a picture paints a thousand words. So, I am going to post some screenshots below of the content I was served as a 13-year-old this morning. Almost 100% of it is around women, however that was not me being selective. I screenshotted anything I felt was unsuitable for young children in the 5 minutes I was online. Again, I did not search for anything. I simply clicked into the content that was being offered to me and the rest speaks for itself. (Ps. It is definitely *NSFW!):
It upsets me, even as a non-parent, to think that this is the kind of stuff young kids are being so easily subjected to. And yes, there are lots of other ways for them to find graphic content, but does it have to be so readily available? I really feel that Snapchat have a lot to answer for. It is time someone takes a long hard look at their child protection policies. My mind is blown that this is even an issue that needs to be discussed.
It is hard for anyone to make decisions without having all the facts so I hope that sharing this information has shown that there is more to this app than just photo messages. And that if it’s NSFW; then it’s probably not suitable for little eyes either.
Thanks for reading..
Written with love,
*Not suitable for work