If your kids are campaigning for you to allow them to use a social app, chances are it will be either Instagram or Snapchat.
Elsewhere, I maintain a list of “bad apps.” Instagram is not on the list. Some people are surprised to learn that neither is Snapchat. You might say that you have known of young people to do bad things with these apps. True. I know young people who have done bad things with email. You may decide that your child or teen will not use Instagram or Snapchat and, of course, that’s your decision as a parent.
As most people know, Instagram is an extremely popular, free photo-sharing application. Like almost all social apps, one has to be at least 13 years old to use it. It’s used to take photos with one’s smartphone, apply a filter to stylize the photo, perhaps add a caption, and send it to friends or to other social networks. I don’t think Instagram should be used by 10-year-olds, 11-year-olds, 12-year-olds. And, in fairness, Instagram, like most social media apps, says a user should be 13 or older!
I have no doubt that plenty of kids have posted pictures on Instagram they shouldn’t have and that they have seen photos their parents would prefer they not. But Instagram does not have a reputation for being the place where people post highly inappropriate material. So, it’s not on my “bad app” list.
Next is the very popular Snapchat, in wide use among teens in Mountain Brook and more-or-less worldwide. It’s an app that allows users to send messages, photos, and short videos to friends. The difference is that these messages, photos, and videos disappear from the sender and the user devices seconds after being opened. The “evidence” so to speak, is destroyed.
Except not necessarily. Snapchats can be retained if the user quickly “screenshots” the content before it disappears. Furthermore, there are apps which are DESIGNED to retain Snapchats before they self-destruct.
Snapchat says one is supposed to be 13 to use it. I think that’s way too young. Snapchat is something I would not block if I had a 16- or 17-year old who wanted to use it. I would not allow younger teens to use it.