Negative Effects of Snapchat for Teens

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March 4, 2022

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.

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Table of Contents

Snapchat is a very popular social media app students often use to keep in touch with their friends and family, but it also opens doors to meeting strangers and predators finding students where they are.

The "disappearing" messages feature of Snapchat makes it very tempting for teens and tweens to share compromising photos or engage in cyberbullying and the Snapmap sharing a student's physical location can be a scary thought for parents who want to protect their kids from predators.

Parents & teachers: Join the SmartSocial.com VIP (Very Informed Parent) membership to take the full course: Navigating Snapchat (A Course for Students, Parents, & Teachers)

Snapchat statistics

  • Snapchat has 319 million daily active users (87.3 million are in the United States)
  • 5 billion+ Snaps are created everyday
  • The average user spends more than 30 minutes per day on Snapchat
  • 65% of 18-29 year olds in the United States say they use Snapchat

(Source: Omnicoreagency)

Click here to learn more about Teen Social Media Statistics (What Parents & Students Need to Know)

Why is Snapchat dangerous for teens?

  • Snapchat is designed to be addictive (see more below)
  • It can be a lot of fun to use different filters on your photos in Snapchat. However, creating and viewing others' created photos can make teens feel that their real appearance isn't good enough and lower their self-confidence off the app
  • Predators are known to cross social media apps to try and reduce trackable evidence. For example, if a teen adds their Snapchat username into their Instagram bio, a predator can see that name and connect with them on Snapchat
  • ~Even if an Instagram profile is private, anyone could see the bio, and the student's safety could be compromised
  • In order to maintain their status on Snapchat (aka a Streak), teens and tweens may share their Snapchat login credentials with friends, which can then be used to make inappropriate posts that can spread online (outside of Snapchat) 
  • Some school clubs or sports teams chose to create group chats on Snapchat because that is where many of them communicate
  • ~Teens without the app are left out from the organized activities
  • ~Teens who say they use the app only for the group chat can easily become addicted and fall into dangerous traps without proper parental guidance or knowledge of the dangers on Snapchat

Why is Snapchat so addictive?

  • Snapchat creates a game to see what users can keep up a "Streak" by using the app often
  • A Streak is given to users who have sent each other Snaps consistently for two days or more
  • A fire emoji (🔥) will appear next to a friend’s name along with a number. The number indicates how many days you have consistently messaged that user back and forth
  • Experts say Streaks can create a concerning hierarchy of friendship that can leave some teens afraid to disappoint others if they drop a Streak
The more you cannot leave one day without being on social media, the more your identity gets wrapped up in it [and] the more likely it's going to have negative effects

ABC News

  • Certain social circles may consider a Snapchat Streak as a popularity status and teens will go to great lengths to continue a Streak
'One of my friends actually called me while I was sleeping to make sure our Streak would still be going' a student said. 'He called me four times and woke me up to keep the Streak alive.'...'A big part of [Snapchat Streaks] is social acceptance,' a 15-year-old student admitted. 'Having more streaks makes you feel more popular'

Business Insider

  • It is not uncommon to hear a tween bragging about the number of streaks they have going as well as about the length of each of these streaks. The longer the streak, the higher it’s perceived value
  • It is not uncommon to find a 12-year-old user who set up a Snapchat account (without their parents knowing). Streaks may really matter to your tween. Suddenly asking your tween to stop keeping up their Streaks could really stress them out
  • Snapchat is created to be as addictive as possible to keep users on the app
  • ~Snap Inc is a business
  • ~Running an app costs money
  • ~People invest in SNAP on the stock market to make money
  • ~99% of Snap Inc's revenue comes from the amount of time users see the advertising they sell (Source: What Is the Business Model Of)
  • ~The more time you spend on Snapchat, the more money Snap Inc. makes, so they want to keep you on the app for long periods of time or frequently through the day

Why is Snap Map dangerous?

  • Snap Map is an interactive map in the Snapchat app that shares a user's specific location on a map
  • Users can see their friends' or strangers' locations depending on your settings
  • Friends or strangers can see your location depending on your settings
  • The SnapMap feature lets users “pinch to zoom” on their story page and view the map where their friends are posting from
  • Predators and scammers use geolocation to know where your kids are at (and when you’re not home, for a possible robbery)
  • If students see a group of their friends in the same place on Snap Map, they may feel left out and have bad feelings if they weren't invited

Potential negative impacts of Snapchat & social media for teens

Anxiety & depression: Research suggests that young people who spend more than 2 hours per day on social media are more likely to report poor mental health, including psychological distress (symptoms of anxiety and depression).

Poor sleep: Numerous studies have shown that increased social media use has a significant association with poor sleep quality in young people. Using phones, laptops, and tablets at night before bed is also linked with poor quality sleep.

Body image: Body image is an issue for many young people, both male and female. Studies have shown that when women in their teens and early twenties view Facebook for only a short period of time, body image concerns are higher compared to non-users.

Cyberbullying: Bullying during childhood is a major risk factor for a number of issues including mental health, education and social relationships, with long-lasting effects often carried right through to adulthood.

Fear of Missing Out (FOMO): FOMO has been robustly linked to higher levels of social media engagement, meaning that the more an individual uses social media, the more likely they are to experience FOMO.

What some parents say about Snapchat

New Snapchat Discover Stories regularly have sexually explicit images and articles -- not for kids! We decided to let our oldest daughter (13 at the time) have the popular app, Snapchat a year or so ago in the context of sending fun filtered videos and pictures to her trusted friends. However, the app has gone through many revisions since we first allowed it. It now has Discover Stories with pictures and links to articles which appear front and center when you open the app. For the past week or so, I have tried to look at these every day to see what these articles are promoting. Many have steamy almost nude graphics which are visible before snapchatters click through. This is the norm, not the exception. And the article names are often sexually explicit -- "Celebs tell stories of how they lost their virginity," "4 Emojis for Steamy Sexting," "A Guide to Lady Parts for Guys," and more. One this past week was about orgies.... These explicit, often trashy articles and pictures have been present every single day I have looked. The app says it is appropriate for kids ages 12+ but in my opinion as a parent, this is definitely not the case! If you are considering for your tween/ teen, I recommend opening an account first for yourself and monitoring the articles for a week or so. Then decide what you feel is appropriate for you family.
BE A PARENT. I have read a lot of reviews on Snapchat. I'm frankly appalled at the parents that say my kid uses it appropriately there's nothing wrong with it. I'd have to ask how do you know your kid is using it appropriately? The videos the pictures they all disappear within 5 to 10 seconds of someone sending them. However there are ways to save the pictures that people want to save that you send them. So if your 13 or 14 year old girl or boy is sending inappropriate content of any kind, it can be saved and sent out to the world. It is very easy to friend people on it. It is very easy to connect with people that your family have no clue who they are. It is not that I don't trust my children. But I do not trust their thirteen-year-old judgement. They are not developmentally mature to make the right decisions without guidance. Snapchat provides 0 ways for a parent to guide their child. As an adult with my adult children I have fun with it. But it is not something I'm willing to let my 13 year old daughter be apart of. I'm willing to bet that most of these parents that think it is just fine haven't picked up their child's phone and gone through their content on much of anything. That's a generalization. I get it. But please look at your kids phones and text messages and Facebook and Instagram. It is your job and you're right as a parent.

Common Sense Media

What can parents do?

  • Download and use Snapchat for yourself! Ask your students (the Snapchat experts) to show you what they like about the app
  • Become a SmartSocial VIP and take the Navigating Snapchat (A Course for Students, Parents, & Teachers) as a family to talk about appropriate people to talk with on Snapchat, settings your family agrees on, screen time goals, and what to do if your student is contacted by a stranger on the app
  • Know your student's username and password (like all social media apps)
  • ~Remember that messages often disappear on Snapchat after viewing them, so if you login to your student's account they may lose messages they have not yet seen
  • Sit down with your students often and ask them to show you what they like about Snapchat. Check that the Snapmap feature is off (take the full VIP course to learn how to check for this!)

More expert advice about making Snapchat safe as a family

1. How parents can talk to their kids about Snapchat

Lina Velikova headshot
Lina Velikova
Lina Velikova, MD for disturbmenot.co

Snapchat is a very fast and addictive social network that can negatively impact teens’ and tween’s self-esteem. It is designed to encourage people to post things daily and be connected at all times. The major problem is that people usually post idealistic photos on Snapchat, thereby creating pressure on everybody else to do the same.

Teens may easily feel dissatisfied if they don’t look fit and beautiful like others on Snapchat. The dissatisfaction may lead to a number of mental health conditions such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders and many more.

Another issue with Snapchat is cyberbullying. Unfortunately, it is not so rare among teens, plus it makes it more difficult to trace since all of the Snapchat posts disappear very quickly.

The most important thing for parents is not to judge or undermine the importance of social media to their kids. Instead, they should talk to their kids about social media and encourage them to be happy with the way they are. Spying on kids may affect their trust and cause even more problems in the future. The best (and hardest) strategy is to teach them how to be safe online and have occasional conversations to check for potential alerts.

2. How to get your kids out in the world and off their phones

Laurie A. Couture, LMHC
Laurie Couture headshot
Laurie Couture

Snapchat and the screen medium itself have the same addictive effect on the human brain as opioids. Adolescents and young adults are more vulnerable to behavioral addictions than adults because the prefrontal cortex, the part of our brain that can put the brakes on impulsive behavior, does not completely development until the mid-20s.

Due to their heavy use of screens and apps like Snapchat, teens are also missing out on face-to-face social connections with family and friends, physical activities, time in nature, solitude and hands-on activities that are crucial to optimal neurological, psychological, social and physical development.

I recommend that parents think outside the box and focus on what nature intends for their child's development. Families who seek out educational alternatives such as hands-on, project-based or arts-based schools and homeschooling can help their child escape some of the pressure of the public school peer group and expectations that social media is a requirement for friendships. Assist your teens with setting up activities, groups and events at your home or in the community where teens can have real life experiences and time to connect and have fun.

Conclusion

It’s important for parents to have open communication about all social media. We especially encourage this for Snapchat. The pressure to post perfect looking photos or keep up with their “streaks” can be harmful for teens and tweens’ self esteem.

Talking with trusted adults about self-confidence and the importance of knowing your worth outside of social media is a good way to combat the negativity that often comes from Snapchat.

Students are you using this page for your homework and need to cite your source? Use this MLA format:

“The Negative Effects of Snapchat on Teens” SmartSocial, 4 March 2022, https://smartsocial.com/post/effects-of-snapchat-teens.


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