Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Caution: Your Tween May be Stressing Over Snap Streaks

Why Snapchat is more important to your tween than homework.

Source: dolgachov/istock

If you have ever tried to take a smartphone away from a socially savvy tween, then you have probably witnessed what can only be described as a look of sheer terror in the tween’s eyes. Taking a smartphone away from the average middle schooler can easily be equated with ripping out her right arm. I know, sounds dramatic huh? More than a few parents however, can confirm that such a reaction is actually rather common.
If your tween is an avid Snapchatter then such a situation may feel to him like social suicide. Don’t be surprised if your tween begs for a minute or two to at least make arrangements, after all, someone else will have to cover his hard earned streaks!
Are you confused, baffled, unclear about what this means?
Streaks are a Snapchat phenomenon.

What’s a Snapchat Streak?

A steak occurs when a Snapchat user ‘snaps’ another ‘friend’ within a consecutive 24-hour period and receives a snap back. Once this occurs a flame icon appears indicating that the user is now on a streak with that friend. Once a user is on a streak a number will appear next to the flame this tells the user how many consecutive days the streak has been going. In order to continue the streak each friend must send a snap back and forth. An hourglass emoji appears next to a ‘friend’s’ name when the streak is about to end. This cues the user that they need to send a Snap in order to keep the streak going.

Ok I Get it, So What??

It is well known that the number of ‘friends’ a tween has on social media is seen as a commodity, a sign of social status. Quite recently, the number of streaks a tween maintains has achieved similar recognition. It is not uncommon to hear a tween bragging about the number of streaks she has going as well as about the length of each of these streaks. The longer the streak, the higher it’s perceived value.
You maybe reading this thinking, “Ok, so what’s the big deal, really?” Sending a Snap back and forth only takes seconds, so theoretically the time commitment is minimal. Say however, your tween has 50 streaks going at one time (that’s right 50, not really so uncommon), he then has to keep track of all of his streaks. If his phone gets taken away as a consequence, or even if he is going someplace where wireless access is not guaranteed, he runs the risk of ruining all his hard work. If he misses the 24-hour time frame, his streak ends. This is why it is not uncommon for kids in trouble to quickly snap a trusted friend and ask him to take over his streaks.

Managing the Stress of Snap Streaks

As always the particular dilemmas of raising a tween in the digital age brings with it some unique situations. Over the course of reading this a little light bulb of understanding may have gone off in your brain. This maybe especially true if you are a parent of a tween who has been begging you to get Snapchat, or maybe even a smartphone. Snapchat is the way many tweens communicate with each other regularly. This may explain why your tween rarely seems to send texts or IM’s to friends. By age 12 or 13 a large number of tweens are active users of the app. It is important to understand that technically you need to be 13 to sign-up for a regular account. Suffice it to say, if there is a will, there is a way. Let’s be clear that this is in no way a endorsement for allowing your 12 year old to have an account. It is just important for parents to realize that it is not uncommon to find a 12-year-old user whom with or without the knowledge of their parents has found a way to open an account. Toward this end it is always recommended that parents get the passwords for accounts from their tweens. Parents may also want to open their own account so that they can regularly follow their tween’s stories (Snaps users send to all their ‘friends.’).

A Little Bit of Knowledge Goes a Long Way

Knowledge is always a powerful ally. With this thought in mind, sit down with your tween and discuss her Snap activity. She is likely to be completely surprised and actually impressed by your understanding of Snap streaks. Find out how many she has, and ask her how she keeps up. It is no secret that social media commonly causes distraction during homework time. This is especially true if your tween is participating in a multitude of Snap streaks. Set parameters on smartphone use with your tween. When the discussion includes a validation that you understand that keeping up streaks is important to your tween, she in turn is more likely to be cooperative and involved. It is important to set limits on Snap streaks. Work with your tween to determine how much time and stress keeping up with streaks is costing her.
Discuss priorities with your tween, homework obviously has to come first but what about smartphone free time with family?
Strategize with your tween about how to get streaks covered when he may not be available. If for example, he is going to ask a friend to take over, suggest that he create a temporary password he can give to the person covering. One quick caution, remind him that because Snaps disappear, he cannot monitor the content his friend is sending to maintain his streaks. This can of course be concerning. Your tween may scoff at the idea that a friend would send inappropriate content, but it is very important that your tween carefully consider who he asks to cover for him.

Is This for Real???

You maybe reading this and feeling absolutely incredulous that you should need to waste your breath talking to your tween about streaks. Perhaps you think your tween should just stop such engagement. This is certainly your right as a parent. Let me be clear however, streaks may really matter to your tween. Suddenly asking your tween to stop keeping up her streaks could really stress her out. Streaks allow kids to interact socially and feel part of something many of their peers are doing. As with any activity, isn’t it all about striking a balance? Also keep in mind; fads fall into and out of place quickly. This is especially true for your technology savvy tweens. If you allow your tween to participate with appropriate limits in place, it is likely that this craze will become boring and short-lived, soon replaced by some other tween obsession. Have you heard about Slime…?