Early this week I read about Snapchat’s newly launched SnapKidz, a version of the popular self-destructing chat service that blocks children from transmitting images. Instead, when prospective child customers enter an age under 13 on Snapchat’s registration page, they get a completely sealed playground that supports “taking snaps, captioning, drawing, and saving [this information] locally on the device, but does not support sending or receiving snaps or adding friends.”
Recently I’ve heard of other developers using the same approach to safeguard children and there are many arguments in favor, including allowing children to feel they are involved in grown-up activities without the burden of adult responsibility; teaching children the politics of social media in an offline and therefore safer context; buying time for parents to fully investigate a teen or adult app before granting children full access; and many more.
But I wonder if we aren’t better off just leaving children with children’s apps and teaching them the harder social lessons on our own terms and outside the pressurized confines of a social network?
Of course a big part of parenting is learning how to interpret clues about imminent transitions in our children’s development. If I find out my kid wants to use an app that automatically deletes chat images, then I’m going to be curious about what types of images my kid wants to send. And what I’m likely to learn is that it’s time to have key conversations about sex, dating, bullying, pranking and other socially-loaded interactions my kid (legitimately) wants deleted from Internet history.
At this point a watered-down app is hardly the solution. If kids want to send intimate images to their crush or incriminating images of their rivals to the entire student body, they’ll find a way, whether SnapKidz permits it or not. If they already know they should cover their digital tracks, they probably have strong enough moral reasoning for parents to have an upfront conversation about traditionally touchy subjects. The lessons haven’t changed, but the prompts certainly have. No parent wants to inadvertently delegate puberty to a chat app.
In July I’ll be keynoting on related topics at the Child Internet Safety Summit. I’ll be excited to report back on what I learn in the days following. In the meantime, check out AVG’s full range of family safety products – and best of luck helping your kids capture, develop and frame those windows of experience they’ll live with for a lifetime.