I NEVER blame app developers for the inappropriate or even criminal behavior of children who use those apps. I have said and will ALWAYS say that it is our job as parents to: monitor, limit, and consequence the behavior of our children – online or offline. However – this level of hypocrisy just cracks me up….

Snapchat launched a “Snapchat Safety Center” website which is completely covered in adorable cartoon characters just to add to the **barf** of making this app seem innocuous and child safe. Which it isn’t – not by a mile.

Don’t believe me? Take a look at the screenshot I took of Snapchat’s “safety” website below-

Snapchat Safety Tips: Snapchat's hypocrisy: Snapchat is clearly meant for sexting, cyberbullying, and general ick, stop pretending like it isn't

Credit: Snapchat Safety Center http://www.snapchat.com/safety

Does this cartoon image seem like:

  • a website meant to warn users (OVER 13 yo – per US law) about the risks and responsibilities associated with using this app?
  • a website ensuring that parents realize that their children are in possession of an adult communication vehicle which requires adult-level maturity?

That would be a resounding NO on both counts.  

Everyone knows that Snapchat has a child pornography problem.

Snapchat knows it, law enforcement knows it, prosecutors and judges know it, your kids know it, and sexual predators know it – (but the predators LOVE it). You know who doesn’t know it? Parents.

In February 2015 Snapchat kicked off this “safety” campaign via their “Snapchat Safety Center“.

Is Snapchat hoping that the kids TAKING sexy photos of themselves will read through the “community guidelines” and discover that ‘oh yeah, I shouldn’t take a picture of my junk and send it to 85 of my friends?’  OR is it intended for the parents of said child, to read through the community guidelines (prefaced by a billion cartoon characters) to realize that ‘oh yeah, my tween/teen has NO BUSINESS using this app?’ The same can be said for the other verboten behaviors listed on their site: cyberbullying, self-harm, threats of physical harm, etc. 

Get serious Snapchat, you’re not fooling anyone

Yes, it’s MY job as a parent to know precisely what my child is doing online. Yes, it’s my job to make sure that my child is safe and does not accidentally court danger.

But Snapchat, seriously – let’s not pretend that your app ISN’T what it clearly IS. Why does one require an app where an image or message supposedly auto-combusts? What part of our lives requires a self-destruct button for communications? And please don’t give me that feeble, pathetic excuse about users sending each other “goofy” photos.

Snapchat’s single and only raison d’être is to send risque, cruel,  and inappropriate photos/communications which supposedly “self-destruct” (except when they don’t).

I would prefer that Snapchat would come out and say: “Look, we all know what this app is meant for. Parents, do us a favor and keep your kids 10 miles away from our app, we don’t want your children here, and we don’t want anyone to get hurt.” Wouldn’t that be preferable than this pathetic display of dissembling?

THE BEST PART: Snapchat can’t even guarantee the single thing it’s meant to do – completely delete photos

Just to take the stupid one step further. Snapchat cannot in any single way guarantee that photos will disappear completely. I can give you about 4 different ways (just off the top of my head) that I can keep every single ‘snap’ sent to me.

Here’s what Snapchat’s so-called “safety center” has to say about their own nondestructable snaps

“Snapchat attempts to detect screenshots and notify the sender, but it doesn’t always work perfectly – and your friend can always capture the image with a camera. “

…and from Snapchat’s own marketing language in their app-store description 

“Please note: even though Snaps, Chats, and Stories are deleted from our servers after they expire, we cannot prevent recipient(s) from capturing and saving the message by taking a screenshot or using an image capture device.”

Yes, and this doesn’t even include the 3rd party apps which can ALSO be downloaded (and kids know to use) which automatically save and capture every snap they receive without alerting the sender.  DUH

PARENTS: Bottom line

  • Children under 13 are not allowed
    Children under 13 are forbidden by US Federal regulation (COPPA) from having ANY social media accounts. This includes Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and any/all others.  You’re children under 13 have NO BUSINESS USING SOCIAL MEDIA. You will find me resolute in this. I don’t care what the circumstances are – I don’t care if Aunt Helga (with the wonky eye and the hump) can ONLY communicate with your kids via Facebook. The answer is no.
  • Snapchat is NOT appropriate for children
    Despite the massive number of adorable cartoons on their site, children of any age should not be using Snapchat. Maybe I’m just being a bit difficult, but using an app whose premise is hiding behavior just seems wrong to me in principle. Is this what we’re teaching our children? Do something that you can’t regret later because an app will prevent consequences? How about we just think ahead and don’t do the thing we shouldn’t have done in the first place???? (((sigh))))
  • Snapchat can’t even guarantee that their ‘snaps’ will disappear
    This just bugs me from a consumers-are-sheep perspective….if a company cannot guarantee that their entire reason for existing, well EXISTS, then how stupid are we as a consumer society? Why not just text the photos? That’s like watching the Kardashian’s on television and NOT expecting to lose a few thousand brain cells in the transaction. What did you think was going to happen?


Jesse Weinberger, Internet Safety Speaker for Schools, Internet Safety Expert, The Boogeyman Exists: And He's in Your Child's Back PocketRecently I had the opportunity to present to the members of a fantastic organization called OASSA – Ohio Association of Secondary School Administrators .

The two day workshop was created specifically for assistant principals and principals of middle schools and high schools who attended the event from every corner of Ohio. I delivered my presentation called: “Students’ Real Digital Lives” which aims to educate school administrators on the realities of the digital lives of students from K-12.

I meet tens of thousands of students each year (2015’s current estimate is 65k) and I track 24 pieces of data per child, per school times the number of years I’ve been on the road. I’m not going to do the math but let’s just agree that it’s a lot of data.

Beyond the data, I have had the opportunity to have meaningful discussions with these students; I get to know them for just a brief moment. They share their stories with me. Many of those stories weigh on my heart, and there are specific faces I will never forget.

The least you should know right now

Here’s an abbreviated version of what I’ve learned over the years and I shared with the administrators at the OASSA event: (Parents see #1 in resources below)

  • Children are consuming vast amounts of pornography, consistently, beginning at 8 years old.
  • The new age of onset of pornography addiction is 11 years old.
  • Tweens and teens are using so-called “dating apps” and putting themselves at grave risk of becoming the victim of a sexual predator.
  • Sexting is beginning in the 4th and 5th grades – consistently.
  • 4th, 5th, and 6th graders are behaving in far riskier ways than their 7th, 8th, or 9th grade friends or siblings.
  • Cyberbullying is pervasive across all platforms and channels, so much so that children are not recognizing it as cyberbullying. It has become the “new normal”.

This is the essence of what I shared with the attendees at the OASSA event, along with very specific guidance on particular apps and the new and coming cooties – there are too many to count sometimes.

Overall the event was a success; I had a great time, the audience was terrific and I left. That was it.

Militant? Moi? Oh, DO go on….

However TODAY I was thrilled to find a very unsolicited and very honest “review” of my presentation to OASSA by one of the attendees: Mr. Ned Lauver, the Assistant Principal of Westlake High School which is arguably one of the highest performing school districts in Ohio.

Ned wrote a blog post called “Internet Safety: Staying in Touch Amidst Constant Change” about constant digital connectivity and the potential dark side of always-on digital communication. He has this to say about my presentation:

One of the most interesting sessions at the conference I am attending today and tomorrow was entitled “Students’ Real Digital Lives” featuring speaker Jesse Weinberger.  Even though I know about many of the new apps and trends currently making the rounds, I am no longer an “early adopter” (or an ever adopter, for that matter – who has the time once you’ve got young children?) and needed a refresher course.  Ms. Weinberger can come off as a little militant at first, but one very quickly realizes that she really has seen it all (or will as soon as the next trendy app is released) and knows just as much.

Why the sense of urgency

He’s right of course; Ned I mean. He’s totally right. I AM militant, I even wear knee high combat boots as a general rule (that’s 100% true).

I take “militant” as a compliment, I take it as a reflection of the fact that my passion for keeping these children safe has bubbled over into grabbing students, parents, and school staff by the scruff of the neck and forcing them to see what I see. I take “militant” to mean that I’m going to act, immediately, with disciplined precision and without pause (but with a significant amount of fear).But perhaps most importantly I take “militant” to mean that I am going to act and speak in defense of those who either cannot speak for themselves or don’t realize that they are at risk in the first place.

His review moved me – if only because I felt like my new BFF Ned – really “got me” in that Sally Field sort of “You get me, you really really get me!” way. I’m not entirely sure if Ned meant it as a compliment, but I have chosen to receive it as my 2nd favorite review* (see #4 resources below).

I was so excited about Ned’s blog post that I responded to it by way of a comment. You can find the entire post along with my comment on Ned’s blog. Here’s an excerpt:

Hello Ned! I found this blog post about me quite by accident; I was the presenter you’re referring to in your blog post. I can’t tell you how thrilled I was to hear that your first reaction to my presentation was “militant” – that actually made my day! (Hey, I don’t wear 14 eye knee-high Doc Marten WWI British Army boots for nothing!)

But you have the right of it, and your assessment is on the money: the nature of my presentation is alarming AND true. Just as an example….since my presentation to OASSA, I have been to three more schools where: one 7th grade girl asked me for help with a sexual predator who now had her home address and school information AND one 6th grade boy asked me for help with his pornography addiction.

Here’s another example from two days ago. I give all of my student-attendees an anonymous exit survey. The first question asks: “What will you now change about your digital behavior as a result of this presentation?”.  A 6th grade girl answered: “I met a boy on Instagram and I was going to go meet him IRL (“in real life”) but now I decided not to.” Based on what I’ve seen consistently, I can unequivocally guarantee you that the person this little girl would have met up with in the real world, would NOT have been another 6th grader – but rather a grown-up sexual predator.

Thank you so much for your assessment and appreciation; including your call for a “grain of salt”. Critical consumption of content is not something I encounter among my students (or their parents) very often. It’s refreshing. EVERYONE should look at all media, opinion, and news with a skeptical eye. This generation of children has NO idea how to do that or even what it means to think deeply or critically. This thought keeps me up at night, quite literally.

Signed, Your Militant Friend aka “Big Mama” -Jesse Weinberger


  1. *Parents: YES this includes YOUR children regardless of: local crime rates, socioeconomic levels, expensive private school or parochial versus public inner-city, or any other demographic variable.
  2. Are you an educator? Do yourself a favor and follow Ned Lauver’s Blog! http://www.nedlauvereducation.com/
  3. Are you a employed by a middle level, secondary school, or district office under an administrative contract in Ohio? If so – you should really consider joining OASSA. They have amazing resources for members – plus you get to see *amazing* presenters (like me!). Learn more about membership here: http://www.oassa.org/
  4. My 1st favorite review came from an 11th grade boy with tons of attitude who shook my hand after the presentation and told me that I had changed his entire outlook on life. I’m not sure how he got THERE from “don’t take a picture of your junk and send it to 85 of your friends”, but I’ll take it. Maybe he just liked my boots.

media literacy.fwAs I travel around the US teaching internet safety to students, parents, and school districts one of the central topics of discussion is this idea of “media literacy”. What is media literacy?

As consumers of media we need to understand when we are being subjected to some sort of media bias 100% of the time. Producers of content are trying to make you FEEL something and believe something which might go against your values.

Do you even realize when it’s happening? The overwhelming percentage of media messages have some sort of bias (even most news outlets). When you hear or see a message can you identify the: sexist, ageist, racist, religious biases, or political agendas?

And please don’t assume that your favorite news agency only leans in one direction. That direction will blow in the wind according to the slate of advertisers on deck. Every opinion is for sale, and the farther you dig into media literacy the clearer that will become.

Being media literate helps you to analyze and evaluate the message you see, hear, and “consume” via all delivery systems: print, radio, television, and digital. Teaching media literacy to young people becomes particularly important because of the massive amount of content teens consume on a daily basis.

The average American teenager spends:

  • 31 hours per week watching television
  • 17 hours per week listening to music
  • 3 hours per week watching movies
  • 4 hours per week reading magazines
  • 10 hours per week online

GRAND TOTAL:   10 hours and 45 minutes per DAY on mass media consumption (according to a study done by the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation).

In addition, an overwhelmingly high percentage of the media bias your child is consuming is sexual in nature.The messages your children receive (depending on what they are watching/hearing/reading) generally takes on slight variations of the same flavor:

young men are shallow and heartless sex seekers

young women should only just care about looking photoshop perfect in order to hook and keep the heartless sex seeker

That’s it – this is the basic lens through which your children consume media. Awesome.

Media Literacy Trick: Consume Great Content

If you want to cultivate media literacy in your home and with your children, you need to lay a foundation of solid and worthwhile content to act as a counterpoint to all of the vomit content which exists in the real world and in the digital ether. Incidentally, most of the real-world “print” vomit content is located at the end of the grocery store check out aisle.

If you our your child are at ALL engaged to the current relative size of a Kardashian’s back side….begin reading this list STAT. You need an intervention.

Amazon.com has put together a list of the 100 Books Every Person should read. Think of this as a literary bucket list.

  1. Go through the list
  2. Mom and Dad: Read the ones YOU haven’t read yet
  3. If appropriate to your child’s reading level/maturity – have your child read it as well
  4. Discuss the book over dinner – like your own little book club
  5. Your child’s insights will impress you, they were just waiting to be asked. What took you so long?

Remember as you consume content, don’t shy away from the content which might clash with the values you are trying to teach your own children. For example: A book with violent undertones (ie Hunger Games) can act as a springboard for discussion which will linger in your child’s mind far after the discussion is over.

What to do now?

Go to Amazon.com and check out the list. Begin reading WITH your child, and pay attention to the content your child is consuming.

Like today.