Back to School and Prioritizing Online Safety

Teens and young people across much of the world are heading back to school and, with the global pandemic largely behind us, it appears they will be re-entering the classroom and interacting with friends and classmates with some consistency — both in-person and online. So, this seems like the right time to remind families and teens to stay alert to online risks, to continue embracing sound online habits and practices, and to reach out if anything on Snapchat makes you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Promoting safer and healthier experiences on Snapchat is a top priority for us at Snap, and nothing is more important than the security and well-being of our community. Better understanding the attitudes and behaviors of Snapchatters and those who use more traditional social media platforms is a critical part of this. 

Earlier this year, we conducted new research into various aspects of online life that contribute to overall digital well-being. We polled a total of 9,003 individuals, specifically teens (aged 13-17), young adults (aged 18-24), and parents of teens aged 13-19 in six countries (Australia, France, Germany, India, UK, and the U.S.) about five dimensions of digital well-being. Details* and full results, including our first Digital Well-Being Index for each country and across all six collectively, will be released in conjunction with international Safer Internet Day 2023 in February. We are, however, sharing some preliminary findings in the back-to-school timeframe and as our new Family Center tools for parents and caregivers continue to roll out across the globe – all in an effort to remind families about the importance of staying safe.

Assessing online risks

To help determine whether teens and young adults are flourishing online, struggling, or something in between, it’s necessary to understand their degree of risk exposure. Not surprisingly, our research confirms that when online risks become more personal, exposure has a negative effect on digital well-being. 

Various forms of online bullying and harassment, including teasing, name-calling, purposeful embarrassment and “flaming,” all negatively impacted young people’s digital well-being, according to our study. The same can be said for encountering sexual and self-harm-related online risks like sexual solicitation or having thoughts of suicide or self-harm.     

What may be surprising, however, is the apparent “normalization” of other online risks among teens and young adults. Impersonating others online, spreading false or misleading information, and being exposed to unwanted or unwelcome contact are just a few risk-types that have weak correlations with digital well-being, according to the research. Perhaps even more concerning is young people’s responses. Nearly two-thirds of respondents (64%) said they ignore or brush off bad behavior online – as opposed to reporting it to the relevant platform or service. They say such behavior is “no big deal” and chalk it up to someone “just expressing an opinion.” Couple that with more than another quarter (27%), on average, that said bad actors are unlikely to face serious consequences, and 9 out of 10 respondents in this research shared a number of apathetic reasons for not reporting policy-violating conduct to online platforms and services. 

Importance of reporting

Indifference toward reporting remains a recurring theme across technology platforms, but we need to turn that tide and encourage teens and families to tell us when people may share content or behave in a way that violates our Community Guidelines. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it’s a way of taking an active stance in helping to protect fellow Snapchatters. Indeed, reporting abusive or harmful content and behavior – so that we can address it – helps improve the community experience for everyone. 

Snapchatters can report in-app by simply pressing and holding on a piece of content or by filling out this webform at our Support Site. (Check out this reporting Fact Sheet to learn more.) Parents and caregivers who are using our new Family Center tools currently available in Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, and the U.S., can also report accounts that may be of concern – and they can do so directly in the app. Family Center will be available in other international markets in the coming weeks, and additional updates to Family Center are planned for later this year. This will include the ability for teens to inform their parent or caregiver that they have made a report to Snapchat.

We look forward to sharing more results from our digital well-being research in the months leading up to – and on – Safer Internet Day 2023, February 7. In the meantime, here’s to heading back to school with online safety and digital well-being top of mind!

- Jacqueline Beauchere, Snap Global Head of Platform Safety

*The sample size for teens and young people was 6,002, including 4,654, who identified as using Snapchat.  A total of 6,087 respondents identified as being users of Snapchat (including parents). Questions did not focus on any one social media platform in particular and instead asked about online interactions generally.