Today I’m sharing the story of how my teen learned that what happens on Snapchat doesn’t always stay on Snapchat…
After ten years of blogging, I think it’s understood that I am an – ahem – excellent parent.
I’ve done all the things that experts tell us are important for parents. I love my child (naturally) and support her choices.
I’m a traditionalist, which means I believe in boundaries and consequences. But it’s 2019, so I also try to be understanding, in case my child develops an anxiety disorder and becomes depressed.
Side note: modern parenting is confusing, isn’t it?
Anyway – we talk about everything, from social media to peer pressure, drugs and sexuality. I’ve always tried to be open with Flea and give her the information she needs to make good choices.
But here’s the thing we HAVE to remember: teenagers are hard-wired to make mistakes.
No matter how supportive someone’s parents are, sooner or later they will do something stupid. Why? There is no reason. They’re just teenagers!
Adolescents and their under-developed brains have shocking impulse control. They struggle to evaluate risks, and understand consequences.
This sounds very bad, but I think teens probably need to make mistakes. If we never let kids make (small) mistakes, they’ll never learn how to make better choices. Thats how I’m comforting myself, at any rate.
She Made a Bad Choice
All of this is a round-about way of saying that my teen did something stupid this month.
And while, yes, I’m wondering why she did it, and how I could have prevented it, I’m also accepting that kids just do dumb things sometimes. Because – as I already mentioned – they’re teenagers.
It’s in their DNA.
Unfortunately for Flea, her DNA kicked in while she was on a school trip to France. Where she was expected to be on her very best behaviour.
She and her friends decided to take the opportunity to break the rules. I’m not going into details here because it’s not my story to share, but it was no big deal in the grand scheme of things. Definitely the sort of thing we’ve all done at one point or another. There was no sex or drugs or rock and roll involved.
The first crucial mistake my teen made was to break the rules while she was on a school trip. Bad idea.
The second crucial mistake was to let someone film her while she was in the midst of rule-breaking. Potentially problematic.
And the third mistake? Flea let someone send the video to “just one friend” who they all trusted.
Yeah. I can only describe this choice as, “completely and utterly moronic”.
Snapchat is made for Sharing!
Obviously when you trust someone not to share a Snapchat video, the first thing they do is … SHARE THE VIDEO.
The girl who gets the video views it on Snapchat and screen records it. She shares the video with some boys from the rugby team. What fun! And they share the Snapchat video into a few group chats. Hahaha! And from there it’s but a short skip and a hop to the French teacher’s phone, and then the headmaster.
And that is how I found myself sitting in the headmaster’s office being shown a series of printed Snapchat video screenshots in which my daughter (and her friends) were clearly identifiable doing stuff that’s not compatible with school rules.
Teens and Social Media
My child and I? We’ve been over this a thousand times. Ten thousand. More.
We’ve talked about digital footprints and celebrities getting caught out by stupid Tweets they sent as kids. We’ve watched brilliant shows like The Hunting, about the dangers of sharing nudes with just one person online. We’ve talked about online privacy and how it basically doesn’t exist ever. I do nothing but talk about this stuff!
But like I said, teens are hard wired to make mistakes.
Flea’s headmaster is a pretty decent guy. He knows this was hardly crime of the century, and that Flea and her friends are good kids. He acknowledges that we all did this sort of thing as kids, but that we didn’t have to deal with people taking and sharing Snapchat videos. They make small incidents into bigger problems, because they are seen and discussed so widely.
It might have been a small crime, but I was disappointed in Flea. There was a punishment, because I trusted her to behave well, and she let me down. This isn’t about trying to excuse teens from consequences.
Nevertheless, I can’t help but feel sorry for Flea and her friends. When I was young and we made those typical teenage mistakes, they were quickly forgotten. Or flat out denied, sometimes!
We might have snuck out on that geography field trip to buy a bottle of Hooch (gags) but nobody could have proved it. Same goes for the time we crept out of our dorm on that French trip to meet some boys. Unless I choose to share it, nobody will know that I sometimes rode around in cars with boys when I should have been at sixth form.
With today’s teens, mistakes can be captured and shared with a speed that’s brutal. It’s not just about other kids seeing your embarrassing moments. It’s teachers and parents, and kids from other schools. It’s potentially something that ends up on a website, being archived, and permanently attached to your name.
It’s quite some downside. Imagine doing something at 13 or 14, that is still following you around when you graduate. Is this the first generation that won’t be allowed to forget their mistakes?
I tell Flea that it’s okay to make mistakes. It’s expected. It’s how we learn. But maybe try not to make the SAME mistake again?
What this experience has taught Flea is that breaking the rules and not being found out is pretty tricky in 2019. And that what you post online to friends might not stay with just those friends. As an aside, I hope Flea has learned the value of supporting her friends and keeping their confidences, having experienced a friend who didn’t do a great job on that score.
So there you have it. What happens on Snapchat definitely doesn’t always stay on Snapchat, but if you’re lucky teenagers will learn that lesson early, and only need to learn it once.
Have your kids ever made a similar mistake? How did you handle it?