Ever wonder what it’s like to be an eighth grader in today’s world? Let Bo Burnham show you. Usually known for his comedy and music, Burnham explores the crazy world of junior high in his 2018 film “Eighth Grade.”
Kayla Day (Elsie Fisher) is just
like any 13-year-old girl today. She’s self-conscious, lives on social media
and strives to be a YouTube blogger – which means she gives kids her age her
advice. But off camera, Kayla is crippled with anxiety. She can’t take any chances.
The movie follows her through the ups and downs of her last week of classes in
the eighth grade.
Kayla’s dad (Josh Hamilton) may be
a lot like you. He’s a single parent who loves his kid and would do anything
for her, but often finds himself out of touch with his daughter. He believes
she lives in a world where people are more disconnected from each other than
ever before. Throughout “Eighth Grade” Burnham paints a picture of eighth grade
as it is TODAY for American teenagers.
So, I’m a guy in my early twenties
– much closer to that age range than you, probably – and I can tell you the
accuracy of the movie is unreal. It has a
lot of good messages for both parents and teens. But through conversations with
others, I’ve been surprised by how many grown-ups don’t know half the stuff in
this movie. School-shooting drills,
Instagram, “finstas”, and Steph Curry jerseys, a lot has changed since you’ve
been in middle school. I think it has good information for any parent today,
and it provides it wrapped in good story-telling.
The movie talks about (shows)
themes like being yourself, putting yourself out there, discovering confidence and
growing up – all things every teen/tween deals with, but they are a different
challenge in today’s 24/7, hyper-connected world.
Fortunately, “Eighth Grade” also
reminds us that things do get better. At a high school shadowing program, Kayla
meets Olivia (Emily Robinson), who becomes the first person to really put her
arms around Kayla. It foreshadows that high school might just be a bit better
Maybe ironically, I found the music
in the movie really worked for me (you’ll hear what I mean when you watch it.) With
a run time of only an hour and 24 minutes, and a 99 percent critic score on
Rotten Tomatoes, this movie really is a must-watch, especially if you are a
parent of a teen or tween today.
“Eighth Grade” is available to
steam for free on Amazon Video if you are an Amazon Prime account holder. It’s
also available for rental in the iTunes and Google Play store.
Today, Americans spend an average of 32 hours per week listening to music. That means your kid listens to more than 69 days-worth of music per year.
Maybe they’re getting some benefits from music, like lowered stress, improved health, better rhythm. But every generation likes a new style of music – perhaps one (particularly one?) their parents don’t understand.
So what are kids listening to today?
Let me break it down for you.
A short while ago when I was in high school, every Friday morning I had more spring in my step because it was “New Music Friday”. I really looked forward to Friday because I love music and I couldn’t wait to hear new tracks.
You see, Friday is the day most artists release their new music. It’s also the day Apple Music and Spotify, the two most popular music streaming services, update their top charts.
I was able to start my day with new tunes by Maroon 5, Fall Out Boy, Wiz Khalifa, Mac Miller, Thomas Rhett, Florida Georgia Line and many other great artists and groups. The music was relatable, and I felt motivated listening to those new tracks.
Over the years, since I’ve come to college, I’ve found it a bit more difficult to get out of bed on Fridays. I still use music to motivate me throughout the day, but I find myself reverting to the same music I’ve been listening to since 2014. I’m not excited about today’s new music.
Why? Because the music has changed.
Yes, top charts are now completely flooded with rap and hip-hop music, but that’s not it. I’ve always liked some rap and hip-hop. But today it’s not the same rap and hip-hop. It’s “trap” music. “Trap” refers to places where people make drug deals. Maybe you’ve heard of “trap” houses? The lyrics in today’s hit songs would shock you. Go ahead. Google some.
For example, Apple Music’s chart currently says number seven is “Drip Too Hard” by Lil Baby & Gunna. The second line in the song goes, “I gave ’em the drip, they sucked it up, I got ’em on it”. Only two lines later, Lil Baby says, “Takin’ these drugs, I’m gon’ be up until the mornin’.”
After a quick google search, “the drip” refers to the point where cocaine drips down your throat after snorting it.
Other songs in the Top 20 have drug references right in their name. Future’s “Crushed Up” and Lil Baby’s “Pure Cocaine”.
Others songs objectify women. Number 10 on the Apple music chart is Blueface’s “Thotiana”. Another quick google search… Well, let’s say any father of a girl would literally turn blue in the face.
I’m not saying Apple wants people to listen to this music. These tracks are simply on the charts because they are the best-selling songs of the week.
And while there are still some artists making good music about good things… it is getting harder and harder to find these songs. If your kid is listening to “just what’s popular today,” it may be time to introduce them to maybe some of your old music. Say from the 1990’s?
FOMO is the feeling that everyone else is a part of something you’re not. FOMO is the “Fear Of Missing Out”.
It’s all your friends hanging out
without you, maybe because you declined to go in the first place or maybe you
weren’t even invited.
Parents, does it feel like your child is spending more time at their friends’ house than at yours? Does it seem like they value the opinion of their friends more than your parental advice?
That’s natural. Kids pull away from their parents and look to their peers for acceptance.
FOMO is nothing new. Why are we bringing it up now?
Because your kids are more connected now.
They make plans with their friends in their group text and can see the progression of the plans before their very eyes. If they decline to attend the plans, they are now sitting on the sidelines as the rest of their friends excitedly chatter along, blowing up the phone of those who opted out.
“But they chose not to go”, you say.
Sometimes kids want to be responsible.
(Yes, it does still happen.) They know studying for the big test will benefit
them more than seeing the newest blockbuster.
Sometimes they can’t go without a choice. Family obligations, sports practices, after school jobs. Maybe you even grounded them from going out. Many times, plans with a big group of friends just don’t fit in the schedule or the budget.
The point is, even if your child isn’t there in person, they still see what’s going on. That little thing called social media that keeps your kids glued to their phones all day is the king at creating FOMO.
Snapchat stories. Instagram posts. The group text. They are all constant reminders of the event your kid diddn’t attend. The fun they’re missing out on. The inside jokes they won’t be a part of because “you had to be there to understand.”
FOMO can make people (of any age, not just teenagers) anxious. We get low self-esteem from constantly seeing what everyone else is doing. It’s hard to sit at home while it seems like everyone else is doing something exciting and Instagram-worthy.
You’ve definitely experienced it,
Come on, parents. You’ve had your friends ask if you and your significant other want to join them for dinner. Maybe a sporting event. And you’ve had to remind them that being a parent means you can’t always go somewhere at the drop of a hat. So you politely decline because it’s easier than figuring out who’s going to watch the kids and the pet. Then you come across your friend’s pictures of the dinner or game on Facebook and you feel a twinge of jealousy because they found someone else to take your place.
F. O. M. O.
But it’s constant for your kid. Their friends post way more than your friends do. And, of course, their teenagers. So they’re not always as polite about it as grown ups are.
They said “no” to plans. How can you help relieve some of the FOMO?
These tips might help.
Distract them. Keep them off their phones while the plans are going on. If they’re studying, encourage a snack break and use the time to catch up with them about what’s going on in their life.
Sit down with them and reinforce the idea that they won’t always be able to drop everything to go have fun. Remind them of the reason they can’t go out, like maybe sports or homework. This reason will be more beneficial to them down the line than whatever their friends chose to do that night.
In the same manner as #2, have a real adult conversation with them if the problem is finances. Finances is a tricky topic to talk about with kids and teenagers. They are most likely still depending on you for the money they use to go out. Maybe they’re too young to realize that you have actual expenses that don’t allow for you to give 50% of what you make to your kid’s entertainment fund. It will get easier as they get older. Start teaching them how to manage their own money, and they will quickly learn how easy it is to spend money on frivolous things when more important things need your attention and earnings – and yet they can’t do that.
Instagram fabulously documents a teenager’s life. It shows the highs of every event: the laughs, the candid moments, the wide smiles.
What could better serve as the diary for an adolescent, impressionable young soul?
The answer? Just about anything else. Because while Instagram looks fun on the surface, the need for “the perfect looking life” takes a terrible toll on the self-esteem of teenagers (and let’s be honest, adults, too).
For those of you who may not be aware of a typical night scrolling through the Instagram Explore page, I’ll go through it for you.
The Explore page is catered toward your personal interests. The more you search something – say a television show – the more you will see actors associated with the show and clips showing small parts of the show. It’s meant to be harmless.
Until your searches get the better of you.
Since beginning my college break, I’ve decided to spend my time trying to get back in shape. This past semester didn’t leave me with a lot of time to keep up with a good workout regimen, so I’ve used the free time to go for a couple of runs. Now, I find myself clicking on more posts on Instagram that have to do with fitness.
The only problem is that the people who run Instagram fitness accounts look FANTASTIC. Seriously, I don’t understand how some of these girls look so good when they’re working out.
I’ve learned that a lot of people my age, especially women, fall into this hole. The so-called “Instagram models”. They acquire enough followers to get sponsorships to promote items like slimming tea and hair vitamins. They also display their perfectly thin waists and impeccable sense of style that no normal teenager or young adult would be able to maintain or afford.
I wanted to look up new workouts or get some fitness inspiration. And I found that. But what I also found was a sense of self-hatred and inadequacy.
And probably the worst thing to think while trying to better yourself:
“I’ll never look like her, so why even bother trying?”
Why? Because fitness should be for health reasons not for appearances!!
But I digress.
With New Years resolutions in full swing, I urge you to reach out to your children if they’ve expressed an interest in improving themselves via health and fitness. I guarantee they will find themselves on the Instagram Explore page sooner or later.
Want to hear some more thoughts on this? Look here.
You can help. Here are some things to keep in mind when discussing this with your kids:
1. Instagram is not real life. Yes, those might be real people, but picture-editing apps make up a large part of the Instagram experience, and that should not be forgotten.
2. Your child’s personal journey should not try to match anyone else’s. That fitness model has been training for years, and there’s no way you’ll be able to do as many reps/have those abs right away/look as effortless as that model does. If they really want to have someone to workout with, help them find an able friend who can be their workout buddy.
3. They should separate social media from any form of bettering themselves. Maybe try a social media cleanse. Help them manage their time on social media. It will help their goals in the long run.
4. Posting their own pictures isn’t always a bad thing, especially if they have an amazing group of friends as a support system. Friends love to hype up their friends. Just make sure your child is doing it through confidence and not the need for validation and likes. (Note: This is a very slippery slope.)
5. Going off No. 4, making a group chat with friends can be a good alternative. Teenagers rely on their friend’s opinions for everything, so creating a chat with the main purpose of restoring each other’s self-esteem could play to all of the friends’ benefit.
The worst thing that can happen is your child loses motivation to reach their goals or surrenders their self-esteem. Once that is lost, social media has an even greater grasp on the child. Don’t let your child fall into the pattern of looking at themselves as subordinate.
Ok. Here’s a startling statistic. Teen vaping increased 80% last year in high schools. Here’s another one. It increased 50% in middle schools. This is according to the U.S. FDA, so I’m going to believe those numbers.
Ironically, those two numbers don’t include my two boys (who are now in their twenties) who also started vaping in the last few years.
What’s going on here? It’s quite simple. This is a new drug delivery system that has not yet been adequately regulated. By “drug” I don’t necessarily mean illegal drug. Some vaping devices put out something similar to vegetable oil. But that’s not what I’m hearing about. Most kids are not vaping vegetable oil. The ones I know are vaping nicotine and THC, the mood altering chemical from marijuana.
Is it legal to do this? No. Not if you’re under 18. And recreational THC is still illegal in many states. But that hasn’t stopped anyone. Vaping has come on super-fast and its catching many parents off guard.
In fact, the FDA has gotten so frightened by the numbers that its recently imposed huge new restrictions on many e-cigarette/vaping manufacturers. But in my town, it’s too late. Vaping is everywhere. And though the chart below says 4.7% of teens vape, more recent data says 12% or higher. Oh, and what’s starting? Unlike smoking cigarettes, vaping is done more by the young!
High school and middle school teachers and administrators are telling me they’re confiscating as many as a dozen vaping devices a day. And they don’t know what’s in them! There is no testing device they can use to determine if their cigarette policy, their marijuana policy, or perhaps neither should apply!
And where are kids getting these devices? Well, until the FDA recently changed the law, they could be bought in gas stations, convenience stores, etc… They’re still available online. And at vape shops. It’s easy to get a vaping device. And also easy to get it with nicotine or THC.
Will you know if your kid is “smoking” one of these in their room? No. Probably not. The devices don’t have to give off a smell. One kid smoked a THC vape right in front of me and I had no idea. No smell whatsoever. And they don’t have to produce a big cloud of vapor either. Some kids can just blow the tiny vapor up their sleeve. In class! I know. I’ve seen it.
So, is it dangerous?
Yup. But I’ll get into that in another blog post. Look up “popcorn
lung” while you’re waiting. And don’t get me started on addiction to nicotine
Hey parents. This was not around when you were growing up. Get informed. Get a household policy in place. Get with your kids.
Odds are your child will become part of a cyberbullying scheme at some point in their young life. It’s unfortunately just one of the consequences of the new “digital age”. The only question that is relevant is: will they be on the giving end or the receiving end? (I’ll admit for the moment there may be a few in the middle just “watching”.)
So what is cyberbullying?
By definition it is bullying that takes place over the internet, cellphones, or social media. Yes, these things overlap. Social media is on their phone, etc… Cyberbullying is posting or sending inappropriate, negative, or private information about someone to threaten, harass, or embarrass them.
My personal story about cyberbullying
I was in middle school and a new girl moved to my school. That girl and I were similar in ways and I became envious of her. I accused her of stealing my friends. Of course, I now realize my friends liked her because she was just like me. I can now confess we both did our share of cyberbullying each other. Usually on social media or via text message. A lot of hurtful things were said, and because of it, we both lost some friends. We did not get along for quite a while and we did get in trouble with our parents for the way we were acting.
Looking back on the situation, it was ridiculous. None of those things needed to be said/written, and all of those things are still out there – in/on the internet somewhere.
Of course, we eventually got over it and became good friends. Nobody changes as much as a teenager.
So isn’t it ironic that the ever-permanent internet is where today’s teens spend so much of their time? Teens need to change. The internet is permanent. Not really a good match.
What should you be concerned about? Everything…
Anything your kid posts on the internet can become public and it might affect online reputation. Don’t believe them when they say “it will disappear in a few seconds on Snapchat”. (Read our blog post about Snapchat to learn more.)
Stopbullying.gov says cyberbullying is persistent, permanent and hard to notice. Dr. Lauber told us a story about when he left school, he was safe from bullying as a young kid. But his kids experienced even in his house because they were online. There’s no longer any safe place!
Did you know…
the 2015 School Crime Supplement (National Center for Education Statistics and Bureau of Justice Statistics) indicates that, nationwide, about 21% of students ages 12-18 experience bullying?
the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) indicates an estimated 14.9% of high school students were electronically bullied in the 12 months prior to the survey?
Cyberbullying is not always easy to catch. Unless your child shows or tells you, or you’re very knowledgeable on their social life (texting, social media, etc…), you may be unaware of what is going on. Parents and children use technology differently. This makes it difficult to know when cyberbullying may be happening. Below is a graph from cyberbullying.org on cyberbullying victimization, along with some signs of cyberbullying and some helpful tips.
Is your child bullying or being bullied?
Cyberbullying happens to children of all ages at least once in their lives and at any time of any day. KidsHealth.org mentions some signs of cyberbullying:
being emotionally upset during or after using the internet or the phone
being very secretive or protective of one’s digital life
avoiding school or group gatherings
changes in mood, behavior, sleep or appetite
wanting to stop using the computer or cellphone
being nervous or jumpy when getting an instant message, text, or email
avoiding discussions about computer or cellphone activities
So what can you do?
I confess, I’m not a parent yet. And maybe my generation will be more prepared for it, since we’re the first generation to live through it. But here’s what I found (and Dr. Lauber endorses these tips!)
Be open and honest with your child. Be someone they can come to for help.
Offer your comfort and support.
Praise them if they seek your help.
Talk to someone like a principle or guidance counselor at their school.
Encourage your child to “be the better person” and not retaliate.
Provide punishment for those who are bullying.
Limit technology time and monitor it.
Learn more about online safety.
Set a good example yourself.
No one wants their child to be bullied or to bully others, but it happens. I believe it always has and always will. But I hope I’m wrong.
All you can do is try your best and help your child make good choices. The good news is I lived through it. Your child will to.
Growing up a child of three, it was always hard to get everyone together to eat a family dinner. Whether it was cross country practice or my sister’s dance class, it seemed we could never get together at the same time. However, the rare nights did sit down and eat a meal together are still ingrained in my head. That quality time was and always be important to me.
So, are you having family dinners?
According to the The Family Dinner Project, sitting down together helps children develop in numerous ways, including eating a more balanced and healthy diet. This group belongs strongly in this activity because of research on the physical, mental and emotional benefits of regular family meals. Research suggests the benefits include:
Better academic performance
A greater sense of resilience
Lower risk of substance abuse
Lower risk of teen pregnancy
Lower risk of depression
Lower likelihood of developing eating disorders
Lower rates of obesity
It can be tough for some parents to get into the swing of family dinners. Fortunately, the Family Dinner Project has many helpful resources, such as recipes and conversation topics.
Maybe you noticed above we wrote that family dinners can help lower the risk of substance abuse. A report done by CASA Columbia found that “teens who had frequent family dinners (5 to 7 per week) were more likely to report having high-quality relationships with their parents.” Researchers have also found that parental engagement is a key to keeping your child away from tobacco, alcohol and other drugs.
Brian Howard, a fellow parent blogger, has written “Many of our best parenting moments come at the dinner table. At the table, we teach our kids all sorts of things that will help them to be successful adults in society.”
As a 22-yr-old, I still remember those challenging conversations at the dinner table. I realize now they were parenting us without lecturing us. Those casual conversations were actually serious stuff.
There’s lots to talk about when it comes to raising healthy kids. Feel free to post a question. We’d love to hear from you.
If you’re like most parents, you’re probably encouraging your kids to get into sports. I was encouraged like that. So was Dr. Lauber. You probably think you’re helping them avoid dangers, like drug addiction, obesity, teen pregnancy…
My friends and I were always playing backyard football, competing with sports video games, diving into fantasy leagues or consuming all the sports on television we could.
Never did it dawn on our parents that they might be creating a problem: an obsession with sports.
By the time we got to college we were playing fantasy sports competitively, but this included betting on the games. We extended our competitiveness into late night poker games. It started out as fun, but gradually winning became more about the money than the pride. We eventually started betting more: our fantasy league buy-ins became $50 rather than $20. Our poker buy-ins went from $10 to $30 and then $70.
I confess once I saw my friends attempting to gamble on just about everything, I stepped back. They were so consumed for a while they were making weekly casino trips – while poor college students! They were also making sports bets on teams for games years down the road – for hundreds of dollars.
Luckily, most of my friends eventually realized this was not a good hobby for them. But only after losing thousands of dollars.
Unfortunately, our state, Pennsylvania just officially declared sports gambling legal. I’m afraid for my friends. Here is what you need to know to make sure your kid doesn’t fall victim to a sports gambling addiction.
What did Pennsylvania (and maybe your state) do?
The new Pennsylvania law permits wagering “by any system or method,” including in person, on the internet and mobile. This means that while a person can go to registered casinos to place a bet on sports, they can also use their phone, tablet, computer or other device to make bets (as long as they are within the state borders.)
What can people legally bet on?
With the law change, people can legally bet on just about every sport. Wagering can be placed on popular sports in the U.S. such as football, baseball or basketball, but people can also bet on more obscure sports such as cricket, Formula 1 racing and golf.
While people can still make traditional wagers, such as betting against the spread or taking the over or under, they can also bet on just about anything with the new trend of “prop bets.” For example, they can now bet on the length of the national anthem, whether the coin toss is heads or tails, and whether there will be a rain delay or not? Yes, people can now bet on pretty much anything.
What are the legal requirements to make a wager?
Anyone over the age of 21 can legally bet on sports in Pennsylvania. The key word here is, “legally.” While it is still “illegal” to bet on sports while you are underage, it is still not difficult to do so. Take it from a college student – it is similar to drinking underage. If you want to do it, someone will help you out. By the way, did you know that 11% of the US’s entire alcohol output every year is drunk by 12-19 year olds? I’m guessing the same will be true for sports gambling pretty soon.
What is the deal with daily fantasy sports apps, such as Fan Dual and Draft Kings?
Fantasy sports is usually a season long game held between a league of people who pick rosters of players. The most popular sport is currently the NFL. Friends make points off of certain players, such as their yards per game, receptions and touchdowns.
The winner generally is the person with the best players throughout the entire season. While many fantasy football league winners receive nothing but bragging rights, some win a few thousand dollars. It’s big league betting in some circles.
Daily fantasy sports, or “DFS” is similar. But instead of taking place throughout an entire season, it is condensed down into a single day or week. So, while bettor doesn’t have to commit serious time to play a DFS app, it is still very easy to commit large amounts of money.
Many of these games/apps “sell” themselves by guaranteeing prize pools, “cash games”, Head-to-Head matchups and 50/50 games. Some now offer to match a newbie’s initial investment! The appeal these games/apps is growing from year to year.
So, how is this harmful?
Presently, 2.6% of the U.S. population has a gambling addiction. Over 50 percent of these 10 million Americans are between the ages of 16 to 24. They are by far the most affected age group.
Of the 10 million people who have this issue, over 50 percent of them fall between the age range of 16-24. They are by far the most affected age group, according to the North American Foundation for Gambling Addiction Help.
Sports betting isn’t always a problem, but gambling addiction occurs once gambling behavior begins to either cause distress, become a habit, leads to financial stress or disturbs everyday life and functioning.
DFS companies are spending millions to advertise to your kid. The risk is only growing larger. Educate yourself and your kids. I’m betting teenage “bankruptcy” is only going to grow. Pun intended.
If you’re like me, a parent over the age of 30, you didn’t grow up with Adderall. If you wanted to stay up late to, say, focus on schoolwork, you were stuck with that old fuddy-duddy of a drug, caffeine. Mountain Dew was my personal favorite delivery system. Rotted out my gut, but I did pass all of my finals.
Today, Adderall is of the most popular teenage drugs ever created in a lab and it’s only been around since 1996. Research suggests it is the second most popular drug on college campuses, behind only marijuana (we’re not counting alcohol).
What you need to know is it is widely available at your kid’s high school and probably their junior high. How do I know? Because all of the national research suggests it, and my college students convinced me it is everywhere.
For those who don’t know, Adderall is the brand name of a drug that is mostly amphetamine salts. It is from the same family as methamphetamine and is a stimulant or an upper. It has been prescribed for over two decades for ADHD. It has some success in helping with this. But the best research I can find says it doesn’t do much for anyone without ADHD. I don’t take it, but I’m guessing it feels like a super-powerful caffeine pill. My students tell me it makes you feel awake and alert, and maybe just a little bit “invincible”.
What scares me is that, with just a little big of digging, I found out it is highly addictive. Hundreds of thousands of teenagers across this country have physical tolerance to Adderall and “need” it just to get by. I also found it is considered the “poster child” of teenage prescription drug abuse in America. It’s use, both legal and illegal, has skyrocketed. The number of prescriptions for legal Adderall alone tripled from 2008 to 2012. The New York Times wrote an article called “Generation Adderall”.
And your kids aren’t scared of it at all. Not even a little.
You see, they’ve been listening to their peers. “Parents” are old fuddy-duddies who think marijuana is bad. Clearly that’s wrong. Do a little research on the states that have legalized marijuana. Then come back and tell me it has done no harm.
Teens think old people are wrong about Adderall, too, or what some kids call “smart pills”, “beans”, “dexies” or “zing”. It can’t be bad for you, they say. “Several of my friends in school are even prescribed it.”
Adderall is one of the many ways your kid’s world is not like the world you grew up in.
For a bit more about how drugs today are not like what you grew up with, check out our companion website on parenting with today’s drugs. Prepare yourself and stay clear eyed. You’ve got to look forward, not behind, if you want to stay ahead of your kids.
The whole point of social media is to interact with friends and share experiences. However, like many good things, some sites and apps can become dangerous if they are not used properly.
Snapchat is a popular photo/video sharing app that many, many teens have on their phones. It’s original appeal was that the photo would disappear within 1-10 seconds after viewing. This made kids think they could share photos without anyone (read: their parents) even knowing. Of course, other kids soon learned they could take a “screen grab” of the photo and store it that way. Or use someone else’s phone to take a picture of the picture. What kids don’t always understand is: there is no eraser function on the Internet. Once it’s out there, it’s out there.
Does your kid have this app? According to recent research, 92 percent of 12-17 yr old American teens have this app. Seventy-nine percent of Snapchat users do so daily. Yes, your kid has this app, or will soon. And they will use it.
So, if your child decides to make a Snapchat account, here are some things you can do:
Look at their friends list.
If you notice their friends are the same people they talk to on a daily basis, you are most likely OK. But that doesn’t mean they won’t send a nude or inappropriate photo at some point.
Most of the time, they won’t. Kids use Snapchat to hold normal conversations. Sending a picture instead of a text adds another dimension of emotion, like using facial expressions and filters that make them look funny.
On the other hand, if you don’t recognize some of the names on the list, or if the usernames contain inappropriate terms, ask your kid about it. Make sure they know the other person in real life. Kids sometimes receive random “add account” requests from people they don’t know. Make sure your kid knows the dangers of interacting and exchanging pictures with strangers.
If they accidentally add someone they don’t know, or if one of their friends starts sending inappropriate pictures, tell your child to “unadd” them and “block” them. The best way to control Snapchat is to control who your kid connects with.
Pay attention to when and where they are Snapchatting.
It’s not always a red flag if your kid disappears to their room and gets on Snapchat. Kids – especially teenagers – just want a certain level of privacy. However, don’t let your young child have their phones at night. We’ll say more on that in another post.
The big problem is that your child may think their picture really does disappear and this might tempt them into taking an inappropriate picture. That’s what you really want to put a stop to. Don’t let them take the phone into the bathroom, especially if you hear a picture-capturing *click*.
If you decide to make yourself a Snapchat account to keep an eye on them, know that they can block you from seeing their stories without you ever knowing it. Yes, Snapchat is sneaky like that.
You can go through the motions of making a Snapchat account, but your child can add you as a friend and still hide what they are posting from you.
They can do this in general or do it on a Snap-to-Snap basis. They can easily post their stories that you can see whenever its appropriate (like a puppy pic or a selfie), but block you from seeing other posts (like ones from that party you didn’t know they went to).
The best thing you can do in terms of Snapchat is have an open line of communication with your child. Discuss how they are using the app and let them know the dangers. This is not one of the more “parent-friendly” apps, but as long as your kid knows what to stay away from, they should be safe.