By Jennifer Geller, Savvy Cyber Kids Contributor
“Hey Mom, Can You Maintain My Streaks?”
If your child has gone on a school trip or went away for summer camp, and no devices were allowed, this may be a familiar question to you. The bigger question is, would you agree to do it?
We are talking about ‘snapstreaks’ or Snapchat streaks, of course. While you may not know what it is, your kids do — a recent study from the Pew Foundation found that Snapchat is one of three of the most popular online platforms for teens (and Facebook is not on that list!). Here’s how it works: If you are on Snapchat and you snap an image to a friend within 24 hours for at least for two days in a row, you are rewarded with a fire emoji next to that friend’s name noting your ‘special’ relationship. If you keep the streak up, the number of days of the streak is listed as well. It’s kind of like noting your relationship status. I guess you are pretty tight if you are making the ‘effort’ to maintain a streak, and the longer the streak, the more significant your friendship. If you let a streak break, well, that’s saying a lot in social media speak, isn’t it?
While I only vaguely understood what a streak was when my daughter asked for this “small favor,” I said yes, and here’s what I learned.
First, I got to see who of her friends she elevated to streak status. It’s good to know who your kid considers a close friend, right? Back in the day, our parents knew this because our close friends called the house phone line and came to visit. These days, our kids have an entire social network that they choreograph independent of our eyes. Remember getting a call from a crush and the entire house knowing about it? That’s a rite of passage kids equipped with a smart phone (and according to the Pew Foundation, that’s 95 percent of teens in the U.S.) are able to completely miss out on. Lesson here, it’s good to check on who has streak status with your child. This may let you know about a falling out or a new crush interest. And you can ask about it!
By having my daughter’s phone in my hand daily and spending some time on it, I was able to confirm that she knew all of her online friends in real life (IRL). That’s always been our family rule, of course. I noticed at least one new person who I thought fell outside of her real life relationships and asked about it. She knew this person but it was great for me to understand how her social circle had expanded and ask about this new friend.
Each day, when it came time for me to snap her BFF’s, I spent a fair amount of time deciding what I would snap. I’m going to go out on a limb here and say I spent way too much time thinking about the snaps. Because to these kids, the content does not matter. I treated it an opportunity to provide aesthetic editorial on my daughter’s home life, a view of the garden from the upstairs balcony, an image of each pet and some interesting flower close-ups. I mean, my daughter liked what I snapped. But compared to her friends’ snaps, it was overkill. Some of them were snapping pictures of them and their friends that day but most were taking completely random and pointless images, marked by a handwritten ‘s’ and calling that their snap of the day. It killed me. I mean, what is the point of this amazingly sophisticated communication tool if you don’t use it to actually communicate something, and something that is personal? The lesson here? For these kids at least, social media is not a full-blown obsession where they have to manufacture a moment worthy of posting. It’s a reflex, one they want to exercise, but not one that needs to distract them from the rest of their lives. And that’s a good thing.
After the first day or so of maintaining my daughter’s streaks, I took a look at what her friends, who were also on the trip, were snapping. No, they had not snuck a device on the trip. They too, had parents who had agreed to take on this virtual task. It was kind of fun seeing what the other parents were posting. More importantly, it was nice to see other parents who took enough of an interest in their child’s online lives to get involved.
“Ugh, did I really just agree to do this?” That’s what I said to myself when I agreed to my daughter’s parting request before she headed out on a week-long school trip. Turns out, I was glad that I agreed to maintain her snapstreaks because it gave me more of an insider’s view of her online world, who she interacted with, how she interacted socially online and maybe a better understanding of why this was important to her. And, once she returned home, it gave me, a way to talk about her online worlds with her, without being completely annoying – for a few minutes at least.
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