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GDN Reader's View: Snapping at snapchat

Letters


IT has become a big problem in Bahrain – instant messaging, which is habit forming, but a bad habit!

Now the Waldorf School in California has banned technology in the classroom. Computers, iPads and iPhones are all off limits. This would be unremarkable, except for the fact that the school is in Silicon Valley and 75 per cent of its parents are technology executives. The people bidding to put screens in front of everyone else are less sure of the benefits when it comes to their own children.

Perhaps then the warning from Anne Longfield, the children’s commissioner, that the photo messaging app Snapchat is “particularly addictive” will be old news to the company’s employees. The rest of us should pay attention. Snapchat can become an all-consuming obsession. No activity is too anodyne to be captured on a smartphone and shared with hundreds of “friends”.

Were this nothing more than a distraction the alarm might be overblown. But spending too much time on social media can have ruinous consequences for children’s development. Snapchat boasts that many young people open it more than 18 times a day. New research says a 13-year-old spending 10 or more hours a week on social media is 56 per cent more likely to report feelings of unhappiness than one who spends fewer.

Snapchat’s “streak” feature is part of the problem. Users are incentivised to exchange “snaps” with friends over consecutive days to create a chain of unbroken messages. Children increasingly view “streaks” as a true test of friendship. Which means losing the streak can mean losing a friend.

More than 150 million people use Snapchat every day. Not all are addicted or depressed but the impact on children is too serious to ignore. Parents who take the plunge and delete the app from their children’s phones are likely to witness a transformation. Teenagers will rediscover their powers of speech. Some might even make eye contact again.

T L

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