You may not have heard of Snapchat, the mobile app that enables users to capture videos and images that self-destruct after a few seconds.  But if there’s a teen or young adult in your life, it’s pretty safe to assume they have.

Imagine your 14-year-old daughter receives a message on Snapchat from a group of mean kids at school.  The “Snap” is a video of hurtful comments aimed at humiliating your teen.  Embarrassed and upset, she comes to talk to you about the disturbing message, but before you even have a chance to see it with your own eyes…poof… it’s gone!

With the prevalence of social media and modern technology, cyber bullying is more common than you think and Snapchat provides the perfect platform.  Snapchat was introduced two years ago by Standford undergrads and now clocks about 200 million snaps a day (CNBC).  The app has become wildly popular with teens and college students as a fun and fast way to share moments with friends.  However, I’ve noticed an alarming trend in my practice where teens and even pre-teens are suffering from unexpected cyber bullying attacks via Snapchat.

According to i-SAFE foundation, over 50% of teens have been bullied online and about the same number have participated in cyber bullying.  Cyber bullying involves the use of technology to harass another person and is extremely damaging to adolescents.  Snapchat is especially challenging.  Although the Snaps disappear without a trace, their messages can leave lasting impacts.  Cyber bullying leads to anxiety, low self-esteem, social withdraw, depression, and even suicide.  Sadly, the statistics show that only 10% of teens actually tell a parent when they’ve experienced cyber bullying.

Because of these virtual challenges, parents need to be more involved than ever by providing unconditional love and support coupled with stability and structure.  It’s a lot easier to monitor a teen’s involvement on social media if the computer is kept in a shared space such as the family room.  Also, make sure you have access to their email and cell phone accounts.

My advice for parents is to calmly talk with your kids about social media, photo-sharing apps, and cyber bullying.  Find out what they already know and whether they use these apps.  Encourage your teen to tell an adult if they know of cyber bullying.  Remind them that no one deserves to be bullied and they won’t be punished if they disclose that someone is bullying them.

Here are a few suggestions for how to address cyber bullying and help reduce the risk:

  • Talk to the parents of the cyber bully and inform the school if it’s school related
  • Don’t open messages from cyber bullies
  • Block the person from your teen’s phone and social media apps
  • Get off Snapchat and social media all together
  • Change your teen’s phone number or email address
  • Contact the police if the messages are threatening or sexual in nature

If you want to learn more about Snapchat and how to limit your teen’s involvement, check out the guide for parents.  For additional support or to set up a therapy session, contact Dr. Kate Campbell at 954-391-5305 ext. 1 at Bayview Therapeutic Services.