I have noticed that a ton of youth ministries are using snapchat as a communication tool.  I have been thinking lately, should youth pastors use snapchat?  Should we use this as a communication tool?

I don’t know if youth pastors, or youth leaders should be using a tool that will cause so much destruction for so many teenagers.  In 10 years from now, we will look back and grieve for the students in our youth ministries who’s lives were destroyed by sexts sent out through snapchat.  I hope that when we look back, we will be equally grieved by our endorsement of snapchat.

I feel like we don’t know, or are being naive about how destructive snapchat really is.  All you have to do is google “teens and sexting court cases” and you will notice that there are post everyday.  Why?  Because this is really a problem.  According to this infographic on snapchat called Snapchat defined and dethroned states, 20% of teenagers have sent a sext message via snapchat.  1 in 6 students have received a sext from snapchat.  If you are not alarmed by those numbers, you should be.  Snapchat and sexting affects 1 in 6 students in your youth ministry.  This isn’t a christian or non-christian issue.  Its a digital culture issue.  It affects all students.

What should we do?  

We need to be educated about SnapChat.  I feel like we don’t really understand it.  The more I read about it, the court cases, the students who’s lives are being destroyed by it, the more I am against SnapChat.  The more I am outraged by it.

What was it created for? 

SnapChat was created for sexting.  Adam McLane states this in his blog, “Currently, the creators of SnapChat are busy suing one another about who really created the application in the first place. The case has revealed documents which confirm what everyone has known since the beginning. SnapChat was created as a “safe” sexting app.”  Adam McLane also shares emails that show the inner conversations of how it first started up.

If that was the intended purpose, and is the intended purpose,  What are we doing using it?  In my youth ministry we recommend to parents and students that they don’t use it.  It’s easier to say that if I don’t use it.  It’s a bottom line for me and my ministry.  SnapChat is a tool that isn’t worth using.  I don’t want students on it, and I won’t communicate through it.

But every company is using it as a communication tool.  

Yes, they are using SnapChat.  Why?  Because they care more about money than about people.  What are you going to say to the student in your youth ministry who receives or sends a sext message?  How are you going to counsel them?  In those moments, you can justify to yourself that it’s just a communication tool, it’s not really that destructive.

But, it’s more than just communication.  Marshall McLulan states the danger of any tool, “We become what we behold. We shape our tools and then our tools shape us”  Whether we like it or not, we are being shaped by our tools.  We are being shaped by Facebook, instagram, twitter, and SnapChat.  Students are building their identity on these social media platforms.  They are developing their sexuality online, and in unhealthy ways.

Yes, companies are using it as a way to communicate.  That doesn’t mean that we need to use it.  I still think the best way to communicate to students is through text.

 

Isn’t it private? 

Nothing is private today.  Nothing!  Not your email, your private messages, photos on your iPhone.  I was reading an article awhile ago on wired magazine, and they were talking about privacy with an expert.  The conclusion was that someone is just a password, or hack away to everything.  It is that easy.

Adam McLane over at his blog states the issue with SnapChat’s privacy, “Check this little gem out in their privacy policy: “Sharing of information: We may share information about you as follows or as otherwise described in this Privacy Policy: In connection with, or during negotiations of, any merger, sale of company assets, financing or acquisition of all or a portion of our business to another company;”

What does that mean? That means your “private pictures” are ultimately for sale. And you’ve given them permission to sell them.”

SnapChat is a big business.  All those pictures that you take, they own.  Everything.

That should be alarming.  Nothing is private today.

Conclusion

I don’t know how many students we are going to have to deal with until we become so disgusted with SnapChat and all it stands for.  I am sitting here grieving for students who are sexting as a way to show intimacy, as a way to find meaning and value.  I am saddened that these images could come back to haunt them tomorrow, a year from now, or 20 years from now when their kids are 10, or 11.  This is a serious issue.  Parents and students don’t know, because no one is telling them how dangerous this is.  Tim Challies in his book, The Next Story, states, ““No parent would ever put his child into the driver’s seat of a car without first teaching him how to drive– without first showing him how to accelerate gently, brake properly, use the turn signals, react in an emergency. It is only when we have taught our children and mentored them that we allow them to set off on there own. yet far too many parenents are sending their children into an increasing digital reality without proper training.”

I think as youth pastors we should be modelling what it looks like to use digital devices and social media platforms.  Just because students are on SnapChat doesn’t mean that your youth ministry should be.  What is your presence saying about the program?  About their usage of it?

We need to think critically about what and why we use the tools we use.  Let’s start thinking through these issues.

For further reference: 

Why You Should Delete SnapChat by Adam McLane

SnapChat Defined and Dethroned [infographic]