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What 20 year olds REALLY do on Snapchat (hint: NOT sexting)

Guest Post

By Raising Digital Natives Intern, (20 years old)

Since downloading the Snapchat app last fall, it’s become one of my go-to ways to communicate with the people in my life. I love it. I don’t care if my roommate is in the next room, if I want her to bring me something so I don’t have to get off the couch I’m going to send a picture of my best “please do me a favor” face with a caption such as “Please bring me my charger” or “Want to order me some sushi?” While my example makes me sound extremely lazy, Snapchat is a great way to keep in touch with my friends and family, sometimes even when they’re physically close to me.

Raising Digital Natives founder, Devorah Heitner, asked me to write about “the non-sexting uses of Snapchat.” Is that what adults think Snapchat is used for?

Is that what other people use it for? Well the thought had never occurred to me but I guess you could use Snapchat to “sext;” although I wouldn’t recommend it. It’s really easy to screenshot a Snap—meaning someone can keep it as a photo on their phone and do the usual damage—sharing it with others, posting it on the Internet or even using it as blackmail. As a journalism major who’s absolutely terrified of not having a job when I graduate, I am vigilant about protecting my online image. A future employer seeing anything online that makes me look less than employable is the stuff of my nightmares.

My uses for Snapchat are very quotidian–and light-hearted. I mainly use it to communicate with my friends and with my sister who lives on the other side of the country from me. Especially with my sister living so far away it feels a lot more personal to get a captioned photo than a simple text. The visual aspect gives me a better idea of what she’s been up to and in general makes me feel a lot closer to her.

I also use it to talk to my friends (i.e. asking my roommate for favors). I even have one friend who will only make plans via Snapchat. I would prefer a phone call but if I want to see her I need to send about 15 pictures of my face with the caption “So I’m meeting you at what time?” Every Snapchat I send is captioned. It’s a quick, easy way to have mini conversations. And sometimes it’s just fun to send unattractive selfies to my friends.

Snapchat may not be the most productive invention of the century, but for my friends, sister and I, it’s an easy, fun, visual way to keep in touch. Without it how would I know that my friend who’s studying abroad in Prague keeps seeing dogs inside cafés?

20 year old intern, Northwestern University

Here are a few recent snaps:

My roommate just saying hi (I may have been sitting next to her when this was sent…).

GEO-Tracking… Raising Digital Natives Knows Where Your Children are–Do You?

I got an interesting call the other day, asking for commentary on a brand new application that allows you to see tweets, instagram streams and any other geotagged, shared material. If you want to see what your neigbors are posting, or what people at your child’s school are posting, just sign up for Geofedia . You can also find some of this information through the apps themselves, but this makes it much easier. I’ve perused some middle and high schools and seen images like this…

parenting speaker
A momement of sharing from a suburban high schoolSo NBC news

So NBC News Chicago invited me to comment, and you can see the full newsclip with my comment here:

As well as a little more of the interview here:

If this creeps you out, don’t geo-tag your posts! I can only imagine that within weeks, this will mean that someone will walk up to you in a store to say: “I see you are tweeting about wanting a warmer coat. We have one on sale.” The journalistic potential is incredible, but the marketing potential is what this app seems designed to capture. Knowing where you are and what you want is about as close to mind-reading as technology has gotten–yet.