News across the tech blogs yesterday informed us that Snap Chat has partnered with three non-profit safety organizations to help raise awareness of the safe use of its app. They also launched a safety center (www.snapchat.com/safety) which has sections for users as well as parents.
The page is a great resource for adult users. I imagine that the teens are not going to go to the safety site to check things out. There are separate resource pages for community rules, safety and for parents and teachers.
The safety section is limited. It does provide a link for setting up privacy settings and a link to report cyberbullying. The section does link to ConnectSafely.org’s page for cyberbullying. Connect Safely’s page on Cyberbullying is quite a wonderful resource. It provides information for kids on how to deal with bullies and it also clearly tells them it is not their fault. There is also a very nice section for parents that provides help and advice on how to deal with situations in which their child may be the recipient of cyberbullying.
The section for parents and children sends them to the ConnectSafely’s Parent’s Guide to Snapchat (http://www.connectsafely.org/wp-content/uploads/snapchat_parents_guide.pdf). As wonderful a job as ConnectSafely does in their guide for bullying, they drop the ball when it comes to sexting. The comments in the guide about sexting fall short. The guide states that news coverage calls Snapchat the sexting app (which is true) but most teens don’t share racy pictures on Snapchat. “But most people – including most teens — don’t use Snapchat that way. They use it because it’s fun.” In a later section on sexting the document repeats the statement that sexting is not as common as the media reports suggest. They do refer users to yet another page about sexting.
The advice on this page, Tips for Dealing with Sexting, tells parents to delete the pictures so they don’t risk having child pornography on their phone. Then parents are directed to have a conversation with the child about the pictures as well as the possible psychological and legal impacts. The rest of the advice is about whether or not to involve the school or call the police.
.Their advice on sexting falls woefully short of adequate. Parents should talk to their children about more than the legal aspects of possibly being charged with possessing child pornography. Shouldn’t parents also then talk to their children about sexting itself? Why do some teens engage in the practice? What does it mean in their social circle? What role does it play in their adolescent culture? What is the child’s own beliefs on sexuality and the practice?
I might sound nit picky, because Snapchat is at least doing something. This is definitely a step in the right direction. ConnectSafely is doing great work and trying to get the message out there. I simply wish that even among organizations that talk about sexting and sexuality on the internet, there was more of a discussion of actual sexuality and sex education as opposed to legal consequences.