When it comes to teens’ social media obsessions these days, Snapchat streaks are at the top. These daily direct snaps are sent between friends for weeks, months and even years at a time. Some teens even wake up early to maintain these virtual connections.
What’s a snapchat streak?
Sean Kelly knows the power of a Snapstreak. With a friend, Kelly maintained a streak for a whopping 900 days.
“It went from sending funny snaps day to day to it almost becoming a burden,” Kelly said. “I’d be at work and I would Snapchat the floor without a message because we would just want to keep the streak alive.”
Kelly was no novice at social media. At the time, he had built a solid following after walking onto the Duke University men’s basketball team that won the 2015 national championship.
Today, the Duke graduate is a social media coach for The Social Institute, helping teens find healthy ways to use social media. Snapstreaks—and other teen technology obsessions, such as Fortnite and Instagram—aren’t all bad, Kelly says.
“It’s social currency right now,” he explains. Like anything, though, balance is required.
Building a 900-day SnapStreak
Kelly and his friend never intended for their Snapstreak to hit 900 days when it started soon after the national championship.
“Then, all of a sudden, it was 100,” he says. “I remember having conversations about, ‘We need to do this to keep it going.’ It was sort of a joke, but it wasn’t a joke. It was almost like an accomplishment.”
Even as Kelly’s own Snapchat use decreased, he still logged on to keep the streak going. Sometimes they would simply text the world “streak” to ensure that the other didn’t forget. Finally, after nearly two-and-a-half years of daily snaps, Kelly dropped the ball.
“I went to the beach with my wife and just forgot,” he said.
The friends considered emailing Snapchat, as some have done successfully, to restore the streak. But, ultimately, they let it drop.
“It was an apology, and then it was relief,” he states.
Teens: Don’t let it define your friendships
Today, Kelly shares the lessons he learned during his Snapstreak with teenagers he meets through The Social Institute. “When I throw out that 900 number, it gets a little buzz,” he says.
He tells teens not to let their Snapstreaks, Fortnite teams or Instagram engagement define their friendships. “If you’re snapping someone 800 days in a row, I would hope that you’ve also seen them and spent some time with them in one of those 800 days.”
He also reminds teens to never share their logins. Teens often exchange passwords with friends to keep their social media profiles active when they’re away. “We all have friends we trust,” he warns, “But, I think, if you’re going to go that route, it opens the door to potential problems.”
Parents: Ask, don’t judge
When Kelly talks to parents, he often addresses their concerns that teens are investing too much time with an app— especially long-running Snapstreaks or hours-long Fortnite games. He shares these three tips.
1. Be empathetic. “Especially when something new comes out, there is a temptation to either dislike it or hold on really tightly to one negative story. It takes some empathetic listening to understand the pull your teen is having.”
Instead of saying that you’ve heard Snapchat is only a tool for inappropriate messages or Fortnite is just a waste of time, ask your kids how they use the platform and what they enjoy about it. Ask, don’t judge.
“The second that a child feels like this is a parent who doesn’t get it and doesn’t want to get it, then they’re not going to engage with them,” he says. “That’s the worst outcome.”
2. Encourage IRL interactions. Those are “in real life” gatherings where teens can interact with their peers.
“It’s an awesome and good social component to be connected online,” Kelly explains. “But, like anything, one of our standards is to strike a balance.”
3. Let teens show you around. With games like Fortnite, ask your teens to give you a glimpse of why they love it by playing a game with them. Once the game is over, you still may not understand what’s up with your kids’ obsessions. But, “that doesn’t mean what your teen thinks isn’t valid.”
“The key for the parent is not to mock, but remain open-minded,” says Kelly. “Think of it as a way to level up a little bit with your child.”