Disclaimer: When I first wrote this article I was naive to the strong negative opinions some parents and church leaders have against Snapchat. I hope to get all your concerns recorded so we only offer the best guidance on Leading Saints. Until we do so, please read the following article with an open mind and know that the author is not trying to recommend anything that would harm youth or put them in inappropriate situations.
It should also be noted that the LDS Church recently created a Snapchat account and is doing a great job connecting with youth through this popular social media platform. You can follow the Church @ldschurch on Snapchat.
You have seen the youth in your Sunday class giggle as they all take a silly group selfie on Snapchat. You allowed such silly behavior before the lesson starts, but you never considered participating. Snapchat appeared immature and only for the youth. Well, times are changing. Now is the day that you, as a LDS youth leader, need to be on Snapchat. I know, you never anticipated this day to come, but it’s no longer an option. If you really want to connect and form bonds with your youth, they need to see you on Snapchat.
Here are 6 reasons why…
1. It’s Not What You Think It Is
Early on, Snapchat earned the stigma of being a naughty app. Pictures shown on Snapchat disappear after viewing them, which led to the idea it was perfect for sexting and trading inappropriate pictures. This was the practice of some users but it is definitely not allowed on the platform. About 1% of photos shared on Snapchat are sexually explicit and they won’t randomly show up in your account unless you voluntarily connect with Snapchatter that do so. It is against the terms and conditions of Snapchat to post “content that contain pornography, graphic violence, threats, hate speech, or incitement to violence.” (Snapchat Terms) This content should be reported and the account producing inappropriate content will be suspended.
So, no, it isn’t an evil app, but it can be used for evil just as much as other popular platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Google.
2. Youth Are Fleeing Facebook
Adult leaders probably feel pretty hip now that they have their own Facebook account. Sorry to tell you this, but that was totally last decade! Facebook has a problem, and they know it. The youth are bored with Facebook and many don’t even bother to check their feed regularly. Apps like Snapchat provide a more dynamic experience that appeals to the youth. So if you only have a Facebook account to stay in touch with your youth, it might be time to join the world of 2016.
3. It Humanizes You As a Leader
A recent University of Michigan study revealed that Snapchat brings more happiness than Facebook. Facebook is built on idealism. Don’t we all have those friends on Facebook that appear to always be on vacation or finishing their third marathon of the week? That’s because people only put their best of the best on Facebook. The way that Snapchat is set up causes people to be real. You can only view the photos and messages shared in the last 24 hours on Snapchat. S0, you get what you get. No constant bragging about your trip to Europe that you took 6 months ago.
By participating in Snapchat you show your youth the real day-to-day of your life. Sitting at work. Watching your kid play soccer. By the next time you see each other they will have various clips of your life and see that you are normal, but still worth looking up to. They need to see your example through their own perspectives.
This also gives you a chance to share the spiritual moments of your life. A quick 10-second testimony in front of the temple as you leave an early morning session will remind your youth how important the temple is to you.
4. Snapchat Opens a Door into the Youth’s Day-to-day Life
Once you are signed up and logged onto Snapchat, the best thing to do this Sunday is ask them to invite you into their Snapchat world. Nothing will engage your Sunday class more than turning the tables on teaching and asking all of them to walk you through the in’s and out’s of Snapchat. Allow them to show you how to use it, and most importantly, how to connect with them.
They will love you for it.
5. Youth Like That Leaders Text, But Would Love It If They Snapped
Many times youth are also using Snapchat in lieu of texting. So when you need to remind them of an upcoming activity, or send them a “we miss you” message when they are sick. Send them a personal message on Snapchat and they will never forget it.
6. It Makes You a Leader That Validates Their Interests (and don’t worry, it’s fun)
A large part of leadership is validating the life of those that follow you. By showing interest in things they love, it builds trust. By connecting with them the way they want to be connected with may just lead them to sharing their personal struggles with you, and to lean on you when times are tough.
Luckily, Snapchat is pretty fun to use once you get the hang of it. Your experience leading the youth is headed to new levels of enjoyment.
Oh… and you should start following Leading Saints on Snapchat (leadinglds). I’ll be using it to not only talk about inspirations of Church leadership, but I’ll be giving examples about how youth leaders can use Snapchat as a relationship building tool with your youth.
For more information about using Snapchat listen to the attached podcast episode. In this episodes we talk with John Huntinghouse of LDS Smile who is using Snapchat to inspire LDS youth around the world. Follow LDS Smile on Snapchat see how he does it. He talks about why Snapchat is appealing to youth in the Church and how LDS youth leaders can begin to connect with youth through this fun app.