Why I’m now on Snapchat and the lessons I learned

This is NOT a post about how Snapchat can be a worriesome social media app.  If you are looking at that kind of post, you can read, “10 Things Parents Should Know About Snapchat” by Family Share.

This is also NOT a post about the popularity of the App or a “How To Guide”.  If you are looking for that kind of post, you are welcome to read, “3 Reasons Why You Should Take Snapchat Seriously” by Hootsuite or ask your teen to show you how.

This is a post about how I got an account and learned how to use Snapchat so I could connect with my two teen daughters and the lessons they taught me as a result.


My kids have been on Snapchat for over a year now.  When they wanted the app, they did what they always have to do when they would like to download a new social media app (a condition born of the fact that we pay for their data plan and phone):

  1. Tell us why they want it
  2. Tell us what they want to do with it
  3. Tell us what the privacy terms are and how they will be safe using this app

At the time, I figured I knew as much as I needed to know about the app and they have been on it ever since.  In fact, I would say, that Snapchat is the app my girls (15 & 13) use most frequently.

Recently, I’ve been thinking about Intergenerational Digital Literacy, and the Rights of Children using Digital Media and I realized that I had no idea how or why my girls use Snapchat to communicate, how this app worked, nor did I know its forms, conventions and etiquette.

CEO Spiegel describes Snapchat’s mission: “We’re building a photo app that doesn’t conform to unrealistic notions of beauty or perfection but rather creates a space to be funny, hones, or whatever else you might feel like at the moment you take and share a Snap” (Holmes, 2015). There is no “liking”, “sharing”, or “commenting” and very little filtering or editing functionality.  The Snaps last between 1 and 10 seconds and then presumably disappear.

So although there was quite a bit of “eye rolling” about how little I knew about the app, the girls proceeded to tell me about my “story” and how it can “stay” up to 24 hours, but anything else disappears after only a few seconds, that I can time my “snaps” to last for up to 10 seconds. They were showing me some of the stories of their friends and helped my to make my story.

I asked about how you could get into trouble here.  That’s when my teens proceeded to tell me that that would happen only if you were “stupid enough to post a nude or something” and that the person on the receiving end could screenshot the image as a way of keeping it.  “We’re not that stupid, mum.”

What became very clear, very quickly, was why they liked to communicate with their friends using this medium.  Unlike the “posed” shots (selfies) posted on Instagram, in Snapchat, you could be goofy.

We posted the

  • triple chin shot
  • close up nostril shot
  • the crazy eye shot
  • the big toe shot

We laughed hysterically!!  The next day, the girls sent me a few snaps with their friends and we agreed that I would only use Snapchat with them…or with my own friends 🙂

Lessons I learned:

  • adults, often mistakenly presume kids are using social media for negative purposes
  • kids really appreciate and enjoy teaching adults what they know
  • kids are more savvy about protecting themselves online than we sometimes give them credit for
  • kids value (as they always have) friendships and communicating with friends and their smartphones help them to do that
  • taking an interest in something that is important to them is very validating and rewarding–for everyone
  • kids need a space where they can have private conversations and have fun.  As adults, we should know about these spaces, but not necessarily encroach on them (Read Danah Boyd’s, It’s Complicated for insight into that and many other issues around that topic)

If there is an app, tool, or game that your kids use regularly, I really recommend you ask to be shown how and why they use it.  You’ll be glad you did!

Here’s some more information about how people are using Snapchat: Study Shows How People are using Snapchat (Huffington Post)


2 thoughts on “Why I’m now on Snapchat and the lessons I learned

  1. Vinnie Marchese Moir

    You are such an awesome role model for your kids and for all of us who follow you. Thanks for this post.


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