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October 26, 2016 Isabelle Oderberg

Facebook & Snapchat: It’s difficult to have a conversation with your kids if you don’t know how they work

Facebook Snapchat

Unfortunately in Australia we don’t really have a huge amount of data around social media like they do in the United States. One thing we do have though is the 2016 Sensis Social Media Report. If you ever want to look at social media trends for platforms like Facebook and Snapchat and many more, this is a really good place to start and it’s freely available online. This is one of the pieces of data that we get from the Sensis Social Media Report. While it doesn’t show data below 18 years of age, we can see that the data extends downwards.

Sensis Social Media Usage

Social networking sites usage data from the Sensis Social Media Report 2016.

Of the people that were online in Australia in the 18 – 29 demographic, 99% use Facebook. That’s just huge. Facebook is also one of the most engaged platforms too which means that once people are on it, they use it a lot. 75% of 18-29 year olds are accessing it at least once a day. 58% of that age group are also on Instagram and 60% of them are on Snapchat.


Facebook is by far the most fully subscribed social media network in Australia and I’m sure by now most of us adults know about and have checked our privacy settings at least once or twice. That said have you checked your privacy settings in the last, let’s say, three months? I’m willing to bet many would say no.

Facebook is a free platform. No one pays to use it. That generally means, as a company they can do whatever they want to their platform, whenever they want. It also means they tend to change the way privacy settings work whenever they feel like it and sometimes they tell you and sometimes they don’t. It’s always good to check your privacy settings regularly to see if anything has changed.

It’s really critical for your kids to understand privacy settings of social media platforms. What’s even more critical though that you understand them. Having a conversation with your kids about these settings is very difficult if you don’t actually know how they work.

There is one critical piece of advice that I give to parents who want to talk about social media with their kids. Understand the platforms and understand the way they work, so that they can talk to you if they’re not sure of what they’re doing. Privacy settings that you want to be looking at are things like who can see posts. Ask yourself, “can my friends see my posts?” “Can my friends of friends see them?” “Can the public see them?”

Another important one is who can tag you in photos. If someone else puts up a photo of you, can they automatically tag you in that photo or do they have to have your permission? Another thing you might want to look at is who can see friends lists. If your account is locked down properly, people shouldn’t be able to see who you’re friends with.

If you go to the front page of your Facebook profile there’s functionality to view your profile as another person. This is a really handy ability that lets you see and test what your profile looks like to others. Not only will it show you what your profile look like for your Facebook friends but also, friends of friends and total strangers too. That’s a hugely important and a useful thing to test. All of this is called doing a social media audit and it’s a really good thing to do on your kids’ accounts if you know that they’re online. Do it with them.

The other thing that you want to look at is geo location. This is a form of technology that actually allows people to see where you’re posting from. In my opinion, it’s not great. I would never have it on. Whether you’re a parent or a child, I think geo location services should always be switched off. It’s just not a good idea that people get to see where you’re posting from and that’s the advice I give everyone that I train. Having said that, privacy settings only get you so far. Ultimately, parents should be teaching kids what they should and shouldn’t be putting online, irrespective of privacy settings.

Snapchat & Instagram

A lot of parents and kids are now on Instagram and there has been a spike in usage recently after its acquisition by Facebook and its increased integration into that platform. Instagram is also quite celebrity-driven. As such, kids tend to want to go on there to see what their favourite celebrity is doing. Instagram is all about posting photos but there’s also private messaging functionality that a lot of people aren’t aware of. There is also a new function called Stories, which is a bit of theft from Snapchat.

Snapchat Icons

What each of the various Snapchat icons represent. Source: Snapchat Support

Now, Snapchat is one platform that lots of parents know about but aren’t necessarily on. On Snapchat you can take and publish an image or a video. You can mess around with that image or video, put text on it, put graphics on it etc and videos taken using the app are less than 10 seconds in duration. These image or video “Snaps” can then be sent to either a single person, multiple people or to everyone in your address book. You can also put them in your “Stories” – and your story is a compilation of images and videos, accessible by all your friends that lasts for 24 hours.

The original misconception with Snapchat is that people thought, “Well if it can only be viewed for 10 seconds then it disappears, then it’s gone.” Thinking this is a huge mistake. Nothing online is ever gone. That’s the biggest rule of working and living in the digital space. It’s always there somewhere if you know where to look.

When people view Snaps, it labels it for the sender as ‘opened’. I does something similar when a Snap is replayed and it also tells the sender when someone takes a screenshot. That was Snapchat’s way of trying to circumvent this but it hasn’t fixed the issue. The only thing I need to capture a Snapchat image or video is another phone. Overlay the phone, take a picture and I’m done.

So the issue with Snapchat remains. The image hasn’t disappeared. It can be screenshot with the sender knowing that fact or it can be captured with another phone and the sender will have no idea. That’s a really important thing to know about Snapchat. Sexting activity does often take place on that platform because kids think that it’s going to disappear but it often doesn’t.

The thing that I reiterate with all people that I train in social media is to think about what your teacher, your brother, your father or your mother would think of your post before you post it. That’s a really important thing to do.