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How does Snapchat really work and why is it so popular among teens?

Snapchat
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

In the midst of a zillion “likes” and “shares” on Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat offers a simple yet unique experience to share pictures and videos, which are viewable for a limited time.

Snapchat is a social media platform where photos and video are shared or viewed for no more than 10 seconds, after which they permanently disappear. It also has unique features including fun filters, face swap and typing or drawing over pictures. You can also join several pictures together to create a “story”, which can be viewed by others for up to 24 hours.

How this popular app works:

When you download the app, the primary screen opens in camera view. You can swipe down to go to the contacts screen and add or search contacts.

You can click pictures, customise them, draw icons, type captions, shoot videos, chat with friends and create stories. Likewise, you can view media from your contacts and screenshot their snaps on your phone which notifies respective senders. Eventually, you end up with a follower base and broadcast your media to them. The newer version has Snapchat memories, Slo-mo, Force touch features for easy use.

With all these attributes, Snapchat has become hugely popular, not only among teens but also among users aged between 25 and 34 years. A survey states that nearly 50% of teens in the UK now use the app. Here are some reasons why it’s so popular:

It’s all about “now”

Snapchat enables users to instantly upload without editing and allows faster communication. A study shows that Snapchat has managed to revolutionise how mobile phone users think about communication driven by images.

Creativity with security

The ephemeral feature of this app instils a sense of safety which allows users the freedom to share and communicate things they may not otherwise feel they can. The app’s features ensure there are no limits to users’ creativity. Features such as screenshot notifications and stringent privacy setting options may also appeal to those concerned with privacy. This article explains how children may operate Snapchat under parental control.

Personalised connections

Users with caption spiced-up snaps and Snapchat stories tend to build their follower base. Teens are captivated by  three-dimensional stickers which can be “pinned” to people, places or things in pictures and videos as they move. In addition, snapchatters can apply multiple pictographs at once for a digitally appealing experience.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words; however, if it is available for only a few seconds, it seems to be worth a thousand shares or likes, in the world of social networking! If used judiciously, social media apps such as Snapchat can provide a positive method of communication amongst young people.

Snapchat appears to be yet another priceless gem in the crown of digital media. As it gains in popularity among young people, it is worth becoming as well-acquainted with all its features as your child or pupil. To find out more, why not follow us on Twitter or LinkedIn?

Internet Safety guidelines to share with teens and children

Internet Safety
Mark Kingham Mark Kingham

The Internet has brought a host of new opportunities for exploration and communication.  Children constantly seek out entertaining ways of escapism, as well as connecting with like-minded individuals, learning new skills and showcasing their creativity.  However, as the Internet becomes ever more widespread among children, the issue of e-Safety becomes ever more important.

The answer to keeping them safe is not to stop children and young adults from accessing the Internet on mobiles or tablets. Talking to them about their online behaviour –  the sites they visit, and what they enjoy most – helps develop an open dialogue. It also encourages them to approach you about anything on the Internet that makes them uncomfortable. Such conversations should be light and occur regularly to help them understand better.

  1. Ask them to involve you in their online activities

As you would ask your child to show you their favourite toy, book or a game offline, ask them to show you what they like doing online. Have a genuine interest in what your child likes as this will help them open up to you more about the kind of activities they engage in online.

Remember, however, that youngsters may get defensive about involving you in their online activities. They may even assume you to be an overbearing parent or teacher. Keep a relaxed approach and flexible boundaries to show you support them and have their best interests at heart.

  1. Warn them about strangers

Children do not consider online friend requests from strangers as unusual. For youngsters, such requests are a means to increase their followers or friends’ list. By explaining to them that it is easy for people to provide false information online, you, as a parent or teacher, can help them equate online and offline situations, where a stranger would actually approach them and ask nosy questions or try to befriend them.

A research study found that children had difficulty in applying the safety principles consistently across platforms, though they could repeat everything that they had learned. It also stated that many children failed to understand the reasons behind such measures. This was because parents felt they were too young to know about the nature of risks involved.

Thus, it is necessary to educate them about the “hows” and “whys” of Internet safety.

  1. Ensure age appropriate content

Many websites, social networks, and games have an age rating. Such ratings are in place to keep children safe. Don’t let them sign up for websites or games for which they may be under age or may involve in-game purchases. According to an article by Parent Zone UK, in-game purchases may lead to online gambling among young adults, leading to addictive behaviours.

  1. Agree upon acceptable norms of online behaviour

There has been a shift in the devices used for accessing the Internet, according to a 2016 study. Children and youngsters use mobiles more often to go online. As the Internet can be accessed away from home as well, it is important to discuss with your child what is and what is not allowed to be accessed online. Helping them understand what is and is not suitable will work better than just forcing your views on them.

  1. Educate them on privacy settings and reporting tools

Many gaming sites and social network websites have privacy settings and reporting tools. Educate them on how to keep their personal information private across all platforms. Emphasise that it is not necessary to provide all the information asked for. Explain what they should do if they receive messages that upset or frighten them, or if they come across content they find disturbing or worrisome.

  1. Encourage evaluation of online information

In 2015, a study found that the majority of the children and youngsters thought that all information available online was always true. As a parent or a teacher, it is important to educate them in verifying information by comparing it with other sources. Encourage them to refer to a library to get relevant and trusted sites for their studies.

Children and young adults need to exercise a certain level of alertness and judgement when accessing online content. Reach out to us to learn more about safeguarding children online.

Social Media Safety: what is the role of teachers?

teacher showing the kids social media safety
Greg Johnson Greg Johnson

Social media has been one of the most transformative channels of communication in the last few decades. Its powerful reach and ease of use make it a widely popular medium to share information, network, educate, inform and socialise. It is perhaps the only medium that does not have one specific target audience; everyone from school children to grand parents have found a voice via platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr. When it comes to children and adolescents, we cannot ignore the fact that they are on social media whether parents and teachers approve or not.

We recently came across an interesting analogy about playgrounds and social media – the author suggested that we let our children go to the playground knowing that they may encounter bullies there, or that they could get hurt. We let them learn how to climb and pick them up when they fall or hurt themselves, and we give them advice about how to handle bullies. Social media is the playground of this generation. Children still need help and guidance to navigate their way through.

The question now is whose responsibility is it to help and guide children in using social media safely? The debate continues, as some educators feel that schools are responsible for providing a holistic education, and social media etiquette is a part of that education. On the other hand, others feel that teachers are already burdened with following the regular school curriculum and helping students maintain decent grades.

Despite the contradictory opinions, more and more schools are now opting to include social media etiquette in their curriculum in one form or another.

When educating children on how to use social media safely, consider the following points:

Over-sharing Information

Most online platforms require users to fill out tons of personal information, ranging from birthdays to phone numbers. A lot of the details requested are optional and don’t have to be filled out. Children need to be cautioned about sharing this information as it can be easily become publicly available and accounts are at the risk of being hacked.

What happens on social media stays on Google forever

Often, young people share information online without considering the consequences, either as a joke or in response to something upsetting. In either case, the content might be inappropriate or unpleasant and what they fail to realise is that once the content is out there, it is available for download and can be saved or shared by others.

Also, whatever is posted on social media has a way of sneaking up on us on search engines, months or years after it has been posted. Caution children to think twice and take a minute to consider the long term implications of what they are posting and whether it is really information they want out there forever.

Be wary of strangers

Adults have been imparting this advice to children since time immemorial and it might seem like common sense at this point. However, in the digital world, strangers have the unique opportunity to pretend to be someone else and trick kids into trusting them.  In light of this unfortunate misuse of the Internet, children need to be warned not to share personal information with anyone online, as a hacker might pose as a friend or a relative.

Check-ins and location based services

Social media has made it really easy for everyone to constantly update their location and share who they are with, what they are doing, and even how they are feeling about it!

This can be extremely dangerous when it comes to children, because it exposes location in real time and makes it very simple for predators to track movements and determine when someone is alone or not at home. While children might think it is fun to share their location with friends and family, to let them know about the latest movie they have watched or trip they are on, they need to be warned about the potential dangers involved.

Photo-sharing

One of the social media features most loved by children and adults alike, is photo-sharing. In fact, with platforms like Instagram and snapchat, which are entirely dedicated to pictures and videos, the possibilities for photo sharing are endless.

Unfortunately, the dangers involved are many – children may post all kinds of photos without fully realising that anyone can access them once they are shared online. Although Instagram requires a user’s permission to follow an account, predators can assume anyone’s identity to trick children and misuse their pictures. Another issue is photo tampering, where photo editing tools are used to manipulate images posted online, often for no other reason but to embarrass or humiliate someone.

Social Media Safety Checklist

Ask your students to run through these questions before posting or sharing information on social media:

  • Will the information I share put someone in danger?
  • Do people really need to know where I am and who I am with?
  • Does this post reveal too much private information?
  • Would I want someone to know this about me in a few years from now?
  • Can this content be misused by someone to harm me?

Social media is a great method of communication, but it is one that needs to be used with caution and responsibility. Has your school implemented social media etiquette classes?  Have you considered the benefits of e-Safety programs and tools to help safeguard your students? Connect with us on LinkedIn and Twitter to know more about how you can keep your students safe online and how to encourage social media safety.

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