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While Snapchat’s New Parental Control Means Well, Real-World Effectiveness Remains To Be Seen

3D graphic by Alexander Shatov via Unsplash

While Snapchat’s New Parental Control Means Well, Real-World Effectiveness Remains To Be Seen

By Movieguide® Staff

Snapchat recently announced new parental controls to help parents keep their children safe.

The new safety feature allows parents to see their child’s contacts and report accounts that are a cause for concern. Unlike other safety apps or softwares, the feature notifies Snapchat of the reported accounts without the child’s knowledge.

“It allows parents to see who’s in their teen’s universe,” Nona Farahnik, director of platform policy for Snap, the company that makes Snapchat, told NPR. “It offers parents the ability to ask who someone might be, how they might know a contact, which prompts those kinds of real-time conversations about who teens are talking to.”

“If your teen is headed to the mall, you might ask who they’re going with. ‘How do you know them? Are you guys on a sports team together? Do you go to school together?'” Farahnik added. “But you won’t be sitting there at the mall with them listening to their conversations.”

While the new parent tools are a step in the right direction, there are some glaring issues that are easily circumvented by a child, or neglected by the parent.

For example, to activate the feature both the user and their parent must opt-in. Moreover, the parent does not see the content that is shared by the accounts, only the account names.

Another concern, which executive director of FairPlay Josh Golin notes, is the amount of effort and time that parents have to use in order to effectively use the tool.

“Are you going to spend 20 minutes a day figuring out what’s going on in Snap and another 20 minutes on TikTok and another 20 on Instagram?” he questioned. “I don’t think that parents particularly want to be spending their time this way. What they would prefer to see is that these platforms take real steps to be safer by design.”

“As a 12-year-old, you might feel like, ‘Oh my God, my life is going to be over if I don’t communicate with my friend today on Snapchat,'” Golin added. “I don’t think that we should be giving kids rewards and badges and things for using online platforms more. That’s not fostering intentional, thoughtful use. I think that’s fostering compulsion and only benefits the company.”

For some social media apps, this reward system can even translate into real life money, like TikTok’s TikTok Live.

Movieguide® previously reported:

In a recent article published in Forbes, writer Alexandra S. Levine highlighted how TikTok allows and encourages sexual abuse of minors, especially young girls.

The article titled “How TikTok Live Became ‘A Strip Club Filled With 15-Year-Olds’” outlined how TikTok users exploit young girls for sexual photos and videos in exchange for petty cash.

Levine notes that comments like “$35 for a flash,” and “I’m 68 and you owe me one,” are common requests from male users to female minors on the video-sharing platform.

“These exchanges did not take place between adults at a nightclub; they took place on TikTok Live, where MJ, who said she was 14 years old, was broadcasting with friends to 2,000 strangers on a recent Saturday night,” Levine wrote.

Efforts from TikTok, Snapchat, and other platforms to protect children are relatively non-existent. Although many of the apps have age restrictions, these are easily avoided.

“We have millions of young people already on Snap, including millions who are under 13 and shouldn’t even be there in the first place,” Golin notes.

While companies need to be held accountable, parents need to use and teach media discernment.

Movieguide® previously reported:

Addiction to technology and devices is damaging on a physical, spiritual, and mental level. Movieguide® maintains that parents must look to God’s sufficient and inspired word to train up their children.

Here are some practical ways to teach your child how to discern media messages:

Key 1: Understand the influence of the media on your children. In the wake of the Columbine High School massacre, CBS President Leslie Moonves put it quite bluntly: “Anyone who thinks the media has nothing to do with this is an idiot.” The major medical associations have concluded that there is absolutely no doubt that those who are heavy viewers of violence demonstrate increased acceptance of aggressive attitudes and aggressive behavior. Of course, media is only one part of the problem – a problem that could be summed up with the sage biblical injunction, “Do not be misled: ‘Bad company corrupts good character’” (1 Cor. 15:33). As the results of thousands of studies on youth violence prove, watching media violence causes violence among children. Bad company corrupts good character – whether that bad company is gangs, peer pressure or violent movies, video games and television programs.

Key 2: Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development. Not only do children see the media differently at each stage of development, but also different children are susceptible to different stimuli. As the research of the National Institute of Mental Health revealed many years ago, some children want to copy media violence, some are susceptible to other media influences, some become afraid, and many become desensitized. Just as an alcoholic would be inordinately tempted by a beer commercial, so certain types of media may tempt or influence your child at his or her specific stage of development.

Key 3: Teach your children how the media communicates its message. Just as children spend the first 14 years of their lives learning grammar with respect to the written word, they also need to be taught the grammar of twenty-first-century mass media so that they can think critically about the messages being programmed for them.

Key 4: Help your children know the fundamentals of the Christian faith. Children need to be taught the fundamentals of the Christian faith so that they can apply their beliefs and moral values to the culture and to the mass media of entertainment. Of course, parents typically have an easier time than teachers with this Key because they can freely discuss their personal beliefs. Yet, even so, it is interesting to note that cultural and media literacy and values education are two of the fastest-growing areas in the academic community – a trend most likely due to the fact that educators are beginning to realize that something is amiss.

Key 5: Help your children learn how to ask the right questions. When children know the right questions to ask, they can arrive at the right answers to the problems presented by the mass media of entertainment. For instance, if the hero in the movie your child is watching wins by murdering and mutilating his victims, will your children be able to question this hero’s behavior? No matter how likable that character may be.

Read also: What Parents Must Know About Media Literacy vs. Media Wisdom

Now more than ever we’re bombarded by darkness in media, movies, and TV. Movieguide® has fought back for almost 40 years, working within Hollywood to propel uplifting and positive content. We’re proud to say we’ve collaborated with some of the top industry players to influence and redeem entertainment for Jesus. Still, the most influential person in Hollywood is you. The viewer.

What you listen to, watch, and read has power. Movieguide® wants to give you the resources to empower the good and the beautiful. But we can’t do it alone. We need your support.

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