Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About

Week 3: Snapchat

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We’re in our third week of the series Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About and this week, we’ll cover a familiar app – Snapchat. (To read previous weeks, click here.)

Today’s app: Snapchat

Snapchat, like our previous reviews, is rated 12+ for the same reasons as the others (noticing a theme here?) for a variety of “Infrequent/Mild,” (emphasis mine) sex and suggestive themes.

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Snapchat’s Purpose (according to their Community Guidelines – emphasis theirs)

Snapchat is about sharing moments and having fun. Our goal in creating these rules is to accommodate the broadest range of self expression while balancing the need for Snapchatters to be able to use our service safely and enjoyably.

And Snapchat lays out the basic rules:

Don’t send people Snaps they don’t want to receive—especially if the Snap is mean.

Be thoughtful about what you Snap and whom you send it to. It’s okay with us if someone takes a screenshot, but we can’t speak for you or your friends. Snapchat attempts to detect screenshots and notify the sender, but it doesn’t always work perfectly – and your friend can always capture the image with a camera.

Keep it legal. Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: keep your clothes on!

What not to Snap:

  • Pornography

  • Nudity or sexually suggestive content involving minors (people under the age of 18)

  • Minors engaged in activities that are physically dangerous and harmful

  • Invasions of privacy

  • Threats

  • Harassment or bullying

  • Impersonation

  • Self-harm

Privacy: Snapchat’s user interface allows you to set privacy preferences as far as who sees your snaps (a picture or video that is sent privately or posted to someone’s “Story,” which is similar to a Facebook feed), whose snaps you see, and allows you to block users. There are ads (and sometimes, they aren’t meant for a 12-year old audience…more on that later) and also note that there are options to clear chats and browser data–a place someone can erase their history from being seen.

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The Good: Like most social media, teens and younger adults first started using the app long before their parents. Eventually, either through curiosity or desire, more and more parents and older adults are signing up for accounts. I won’t lie–I first signed up as an alternative way of communicating with and keeping tabs on some of the teens in our youth group, but now that friends my age are on it, I’m enjoying watching snaps of new babies, mothers at hockey games, and adults trying to be funny (myself included). We’ve used it in our youth group as a way of telling students about upcoming events or information (and we can see when/if they watch it). So, Snapchat can be a great alternative to texting.

The Bad: The misnomer about Snapchat is that once a snap is gone, it’s gone for good. However, Snapchat makes clear in their Terms of Service that at any time, they can store or use any picture or video. In addition to that, the receiver of a snap can also save a copy of the picture or a screen grab of the video and shows you (most of the time–they admit they’re not flawless) when someone has taken a screen shot of something you posted. And sometimes, kids post dumb stuff…like their phone numbers, or videos of their friends snorting sugar but it looks like cocaine if you didn’t know, or just…dumb stuff..Publicly (these are all screen grabs I took a few weeks ago while planning this series and only included students in different youth groups I know, and nobody seems to mind…)

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A simple web search will show you plenty of horror stories of kids (and parents) that have been bullied, hurt themselves, hurt others, or committed suicide after misusing Snapchat.

Advertising that is NOT Kid-Friendly: As mentioned earlier, there are ads for various events and websites. Some ads are hidden in live events (the Iowa Caucus was a good example–lots of live scenes of people showing up to vote intermingled with candidate ads) where as some advertising comes in the form of “Channels” and are updated daily by media brands we’re used to seeing (magazines, cable channels, and the like–see below. These are a few I just captured today). Remember, no matter what privacy settings you have enabled or what age you select, these ads are shown to everyone.

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What you need to know: 

We’ve talked about how most parents restrict app download for teens to the 12+ and under rating. This gives us a false sense of security.

Last week, a woman named Alyssa commented on the Apps article on Musical.ly:

I feel like I’m pretty careful with my kids and their devices, but a few days ago, I let my ten-year-old daughter convince me to let her download Musical.ly on our iPad because several of her friends (who are also good kids with strict-ish parents) have it. She spent a little time on it and found her friends to follow, but hadn’t posted anything, and then didn’t look at it again all weekend.

This morning I read your email/blog and couldn’t believe the timing. My first instinct was to go delete the app before she woke up, but your sentence about not stealing their phones and deleting apps and having a conversation instead really stood out. So while she was eating breakfast, I mentioned the app and how I read that it’s really not for kids and you’re supposed to be at least 12 (which I am kicking myself for not even noticing that part, let alone the 18+), and right away she said, “Yeah, let’s delete it. I think there’s some stuff on there I shouldn’t see anyway.”

I think she must have already had some guilt about it and we had a good little chat about apps and life. Later, I went into the settings before deleting, and she did have it set as public! Ah!

So anyway, instead of beating myself up about this total mommy fail, I wanted to take the time to say THANK YOU for this wake up call and reminder to not get lax about all this stuff. You probably saved my daughter from some things she didn’t need to see and/or hear, and helped me remember to be more in tune with what’s happening on those screens.

Snapchat is not evil. And maybe it’s okay for your kids to have it–that’s up to you and your kids to decide. So instead of locking their phones away, deleting every app, use this opportunity to talk to your kids about how they engage with Snapchat. Ask some questions.

  • Have you heard about Snapchat? Have you ever used it? If you have, what have you seen?
  • Are there any kids in your school who have had rumors spread about them because of something that was shared because of Snapchat or social media?
  • Do you think Snaps ever totally disappear?
  • What are the benefits of using Snapchat? What are the risks?

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Learn more about the book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex.

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex


The Miracle of Patience: A Letter to Our First Child

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Virgin Mary Consoles Eve by Sister Grace Remington

Dearest One,

Your conception was a miracle. Ten months after our first miscarriage, six months after our second, and one week after I was simultaneously searching for a surgeon to perform a radical hysterectomy while being prayed over by friends and strangers because of a debilitating condition that affected my fertility, you were conceived.

It shouldn’t have even happened then. I ovulated a week early from an ovary that had no fallopian tube connecting it to my womb. But somehow, in some way, the other tube found you floating around, swept you up, and planted you into my innermost part.

Five weeks later, I was so tired, exhausted by an unmistakable fatigue I have only experienced twice in my life–once ten months before and once four months after that. Could it be? Could I be?

My cycle was a week late, so the next time I was at the market, I picked up a box of two tests. It was on sale and cheaper than the single. I followed the instructions. Waited two minutes. Only one line appeared. I wasn’t pregnant.

The tiredness continued throughout the week, but I chalked it up to Thanksgiving festivities and the new cold weather and grey skies. I woke up on Black Friday with the sun, and made my way to the guest bath, as not to disturb my sleeping husband (or the two dogs, who would start howling for the breakfast).

In a basket next to the sink, I saw the second test. Would five days make a difference? I gave in to the white, plastic temptation. Followed the instructions. Waited two minutes.

Two. Lines.

Immediately, two bold lines.

Just five days beforehand, I told Tim that I wasn’t pregnant, and our lives went on as normal. But now?

I went back into the bedroom and quietly sat by him with the test. I showed him. We held each other, dogs vying for our attention, unaware of the angels who were undoubtedly rejoicing with us.

A blood test and ultrasound first showed you–well, the small, almond-sized sac you were living in. We couldn’t see you just yet. A few weeks went by, and we first saw your plump head and your flickering heartbeat.

Now, here we are a third of the way in our journey to meeting you. I wish I could say the miracle of you was enough to remind me to be joyful and grateful at all times (as it should be), but I have not been the perfect carrier of life. I’ve been angry when I’m sick, or tired, or in pain. I’ve been upset at the way all the changing hormones in my body cause strange things to happen. Now that my old pants don’t fit and my body is slowly growing into something I don’t recognize, it’s been hard for my broken mind to adjust.

It’s almost like you know when I need a reminder. Just the other night after poking on my unfamiliar rounding belly, you leapt in my womb. It was such a strange and lovely feeling; a feeling I know will become normal over time. And soon, you’ll enter the world, and you will yawn and cry and pee and poop and spit up all over everything. And you will wrap your tiny fingers around one of mine or one of Tim’s. And you’ll change before our eyes and we won’t be able to remember every headache, cramp, or sleepless night.

Your presence is teaching me a patience far beyond anything I’ve ever experienced. In a world where I can get almost anything I need or want almost instantly, nine months seems like a terribly long time to wait for something. At times, it seems like July is an eternity away. But with each slow moment that passes, my mind is as equally slow to change to cherish every moment with you now–every non-repeated, hard, holy moment. It is a rhythm of grace I am happy to relinquish my fast, predictable pace to.

As a Christian for almost 36 years, I’ve been well versed in the miracle of the birth of Jesus. How a small, humble baby came to change the world; how he came to change me.

Sweet child, you are a miracle to me. You are changing me, silently now. As your fingernails form and your legs lengthen, my heart is reforming and my hope lengthens.

Sweet child, yes, I can’t wait to meet you. But I’m perfectly thankful for where you are now.

 

Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About

Week 2: Musical.ly

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Last week, I started the weekly series Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About with some information about the Buzzfeed app. (Click on over if you missed it!)

Today’s app: Musical.ly (similar app: Dubsmash)

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Another rated 12+ app on the books today. I discovered Musical.ly (self described: musical.ly is a video community that allows you to create, share, and discover short videos.) because some of the youth group kids I follow post videos from it.

My brain: This must be popular. Let’s download it for research.

My heart after exploring for half an hour: These. Little. Girls.

Just like last week’s Buzzfeed, Musical.ly is rated 12+ in various app stores, for a variety of “Infrequent/Mild,” (emphasis mine) sex and suggestive themes.

Interestingly enough, the terms of service for the app essentially say, “This is meant for people over 13 years of age, but if you’re under 18, don’t use this.”

But it’s rated 12+? That makes ($$$ MARKETING $$$) sense for parents who allow their kids to download apps rated for 12 year olds.

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While there isn’t much explicit content (at least at first glance), it’s easy to see that pre-teen girls have taken over this app like a sale on Hello Kitty pajamas at Justice. Sure, there are guys and people in their 20s (I really didn’t see anyone over the age of 25), but mostly? Girls 12 years old and younger. 

Here’s a home page screen grab.

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Musical.ly App Home Screen

And yes, while there is nothing inherently wrong with tweens singing 15-second soundbites of popular songs or quoting popular movies, or posting up their own movies…(wait), if me, a non-creepy almost-36-year-old-sexuality-researching-author can mostly anonymously create an account and access these videos, who else can?

(Pauses to let you answer).

If that’s not concerning enough, let me share with you the most disturbing part of this app.

YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE VIDEOS AND NOBODY HAS TO KNOW.

Sure, there are privacy settings (see below)…

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Privacy Settings

…but the amount of public, open accounts is VAST. As you can see, you can also share them with anyone you’d like).

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Sharing Screen

 

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Share as a link or a video file

 

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Two clicks and you just sent a video of an unknown underage girl to a friend while a copy is downloaded on your phone.


Now, before the “I can’t believe you posted videos of strange, underage girls!” emails/comments, note that these videos were already shared MANY times on Twitter and on other social media outlets. These girls didn’t have any privacy set up, so their videos were able to be shared and downloaded by anybody. To protect who/where they are, the videos are saved on my private Dropbox and I don’t have them linked to their actual Musical.ly profiles.

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What you need to know: 

As with Buzzfeed, many parents restrict app download for teens to the 12+ and under rating. This gives us a false sense of security that app makers actually play by their own terms of service. Really, Musical.ly? Stick to your own rules. If your app isn’t supposed to be used by anyone under 18, rate it as such. 

We all know how society, and social media, lend to a “make your own fame” culture. Teen girls are especially susceptible to looking for attention online. (Really. It’s been studied. I’m not generalizing.) Instead of stealing your kids’ phones and combing through them, deleting every app, use this opportunity to talk to your kids about how they engage with this type of culture. Ask some questions.

  • What social media apps or websites are you on? Which ones do you know about that you’re not on? Why?
  • Do you have any friends who are obsessed with being famous on social media?
  • How do you feel when you get a lot of likes (or no likes) on something you put on social media? Why?

Remember, it’s not about freaking out or sheltering our kids forever. It’s about redeeming the conversation.


Sign up here to get the Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About post in your inbox every Monday.

Learn more about the book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex.

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex


Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About

Week 1: Buzzfeed

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Over the last decade, I’ve had the chance to do a lot of research on what kids–and adults–are exposed to on a daily basis through the Internet: phones, tablets, computers…you name it. I should say that I don’t believe in a shock-and-awe approach; fear is not an emotion I wish to instill in readers. Being educated on what’s available, how it’s available, and to whom it’s available, however, is essential to parents so that they can have conversations with their kids about how to process information when it comes to sex and the media.

My book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex releases in just under four months, so I thought I’d start a weekly conversation based on popular apps accessible to teens. This is the first post of many.

Today’s app: Buzzfeed

I’ll be the first to admit I am a sucker for taking “What is Your Kitten Superpower?” or “Which Star Wars Character would be Your Mom’s Best Frenemy?” quizzes that get populated on Facebook. I thought an quicker way to get to these somewhat addicting quizzes when I’m standing in line at Costco would be to download the Buzzfeed app.

And you know, because research.

The Buzzfeed app, rated 12+ in various app stores, for a variety of “Infrequent/Mild,” (emphasis mine) sex and suggestive themes is a never-ending rabbit trail of mindless escapism. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. But…

Any time you log in, you’re bound to be exposed to sexually explicit content.

Within a less than five minute scroll, you can see a few of the articles on the home page of the app I found and screen captured. I didn’t search for anything specific–it’s just what’s on the home page.


 

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Buzzfeed is Rated Ages 12+


 

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“We Know How Many Times You’ve Had Sex This Week”


 

“Babysitter’s Porn an Dead Hamsters: What the **** Do You Do?” (Photo Edited by Me)


 

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“How Much Do You Actually Know About Gay Sex?” … and more.


What you need to know: 

Many parents restrict app download for teens to the 12+ rating. As you can see, there is content in the Buzzfeed app that is far more explicit than most conservative adults…let alone twelve-year-olds…desire to see.

Do you know if your kids (especially teens) or their friends have the Buzzfeed app? Check it out for yourself if you’d like to know more (if pornography is something you struggle with, I suggest you ask a friend or download and explore it with someone trustworthy for accountability) and plan to talk to your kids about it today.


Sign up here to get the Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About post in your inbox every Monday.

Learn more about the book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex.

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex

You Are Not a Jar of Nutella

Healthy does not equal perfection.

Healthy means acknowledging what in your life needs to realign with God’s unique plan for you.

Asking for help shows strength, not weakness. Invite others into your journey as long as they aren’t detrimental to your health.

Growth requires pain. If you are covered in more sweat, blood and tears than rainbows and butterflies, you can rest assured that you’re on the right path. Rainbows and butterflies are opaque patches that cover us up. Blood, sweat and tears are transparent and show vulnerability.

Don’t allow the expectations or the pressures from others indicate whether or not you’re striving to be like Christ.

{{Just a few thoughts as we all contemplate the areas we need to grow in the new year.}}

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A Free Advent Devotional for the Hard and Holy Holidays

Growing up, I didn’t know much about Advent.

Christmas cantatas, yes.

Live nativity scenes, yes.

Advent…not so much.

A few years ago, after I began attending St. Bartholomew’s in Nashville, Advent really took a hold on my heart: a time to prepare and reflect upon the coming Christ, his birth, death and resurrection, the narrative of Mary and Joseph, angels, dirt, mundane, pain, rejoicing.

Over time, I’ve written a few blog posts inspired by the season or on Christmas in general. Because as mystical and ponderous Advent is, the holiday season is hard for many people–myself included.

Family and travel and money and parties and finals and bad weather and schedules and so…many…things that distract and hurt and delight and remind us of a broken world, not a healed one.

We yearn for hope.

Last year, I compiled a month-full of Advent writings and made a little eBook.

It’s free. 

Just head over to Noisetrade and download it. 

Please share it with your friends, your family.

Study it by yourself or with a group of people.

Print off a million copies of it and give it to anyone you think could find it helpful.

It’s yours.

It’s my prayer that by taking just a couple of minutes each day as we approach Christmas to stop and breathe and pray and hope and to know we aren’t alone in this hard and holy season, we can live vulnerably in the dualities of joy and sadness and pain and peace.

Those tensions have been lived and wrestled in since the beginning of time but in this season we know the most beautiful moment is in our rest.

And we can rest and know we are loved and can love, we can rest in knowing hope and holiness, and we can rest knowing our Savior has come (and is here, now).

O’ come let us adore Him!

Let Your No Be Your Yes

Keep Going.

Photo Credit: Visionello, Flickr

Just because you may hear “no” a million times doesn’t mean that the biggest YES–the calling for you to change the world in whatever you way you are meant to change it–diminishes.

The “no” is water thrown next to the fire on the dirt.

It doesn’t touch the flame.

Keep going.