If your children are using or begging to use the Snapchat app on their digital devices, the time has come for a conversation.
Kids love Snapchat because it makes them feel like they can have secrets, sharing them with others by choice, and occasionally venturing into out-of-bounds territory. They like it because it’s private. And they like it because everything self-destructs in a few seconds.
Well, not really disappear, because the digital footprints we make are never lost and are always lying around — often for a long time.
According to a New York Times article, Off the Record in a Chat App? Don’t Be Sure, the Federal Communications.Commission (FCC) has declared that Snapchat’s claims of disappearing messages and privacy are false. This 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 goes into 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:
Consumers can, for example, use third-party apps to log into the Snapchat service, according to the complaint. 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. Then sit down and think about privacy — yours and your child’s. Do we really have ANY privacy these days? Can we do anything in secret and keep it secret? The answer is no.
So children who are doing what kids do for fun — sharing secrets and keeping at least a few from their parents — also need to learn and relearn that digital sharing may be fun, but it’s not secure. It’s a perfect time to talk about several concepts — that programmers and coders can often figure out workarounds for just about anything; that most secrets are better shared face-to-face; and that companies may claim things that they cannot carry out.
As Wortham writes in the New York Times, “The settlement between the F.T.C. and Snapchat also raised another notion: that some technology companies may be misleading users about how their information is stored and shared, even if unintentionally.”