This is where parents really need to educate their kids about apps in general. Parents shouldn’t just provide a list of good apps and bad apps. That list will become outdated before the ink dries. Instead, parents should help their kids learn how to make wise social media decisions. For example:
• Nothing you send or post is ever temporary. Snapchat is no exception (more about that here). So be careful when an app claims that the content “disappears.” Don’t ever post a comment or picture that you don’t want your dad, pastor, future boss and future spouse to see. Ninety-three percent of hiring managers will review a candidate’s social profile before making a hiring decision. And even if your boss misses it, there’s a day when all that is secret will eventually be brought into the open (Luke 8:17). So live your lives in a way that silences any accusers (I Peter 2:15).
• Anonymity is actually only perceived anonymity, and it breeds carelessness. The world is embracing anonymity because people like a lack of accountability. But the truth is, we are all accountable for our actions and our comments (I Peter 4:11).
So if you decide to let your kids use Snapchat, then make sure they understand two things:
• These pictures and comments are being routed through a server where people have access to them. Yes, some random tech guy in Venice, California, can see what you just sent to your boyfriend.
• Your boyfriend can screenshot that picture and message you just sent. Sure, now Snapchat has a notification when someone screenshots you, but isn’t that a little too late? And many are discovering ways to circumvent these speedbumps.
So let me ask the question that I’m asked frequently from parents at my parent workshop:
Should I let my kids use Snapchat?
And my answer is: depends.
Again, I’m not one to provide you lists of good and bad apps. Don’t get me wrong, I like it when media experts like Common Sense Media post articles about the anonymous apps kids are using. But parents must always remember to not just give our kids a fish…but teach them to fish.
So if your kid wants Snapchat—consider this:
• How old are they? Most experts say that kids shouldn’t even have a phone until 12 years old, and most social media platforms don’t even allow kids under 13, thanks to the Children Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). And Snapchat has had its fair share of run-ins with COPPA already. So if your 11-year-old asks you to be on Snapchat, you have an easy out. “Sorry Brianne, it’s the law.”
• Do they understand that Snapchat pictures are not truly temporary? Educate them about some of these realities before they hit download.
• Are they exhibiting good discernment? Like most apps, Snapchat users have the ability to follow and view all kinds of people posting all kinds of content posted as “stories.” So kids must learn good discernment with Snapchat just like they do with TV, music, Google and every other entertainment media and social media outlet.
• If you do decide to let them have Snapchat, then you get it too. Use it as a fun way to communicate back and forth with them throughout the day. Monitor their stories to see what they are posting (realizing, all their posts aren’t posted to their “Story”).
• If they’re older—like 16 or 17—educate them, and let them make the decision. Learn to ask them good questions that lead them toward truth. Remember, when your kid turns 18, they have the freedom to move out and start making these decisions for themselves. Then they can download whatever they want. Are you using your time with them to prepare them for that day?
JONATHAN McKEE is the author of over 20 books, including 52 WAYS TO CONNECT WITH YOUR SMARTPHONE OBSESSED KID. He speaks to parents and leaders worldwide. Bring him to your city.
This article originally appeared here.