The most dangerous social media account for student athletes to have isn't Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram, but rather Snapchat. Walt Osterman, a 20-year veteran of the social media and marketing space, makes that case in a recent article. Taking things a step further, Osterman also runs an agency aimed at educating athletic programs, as well as teaching them how to handle damage control situations.
Snapchat was founded on the idea that a picture or video would show up for a set amount of time and then "disappear," which has given many users a false sense of security about the pictures that they share with others that they thought were both private and temporary. According to Fieldhouse Media, 63% of student athletes believe that Snapchat is private. However, as many of us already understand, in today's world, nothing really, truly disappears from the internet, and some users have been taking screenshots of the "private and temporary" content being shared in the Snapchat space and sharing it on other platforms well after the Snapchat timer has expired.
That type of behavior has led to countless suspensions from team activities, school expulsions and overall embarrassment for the student-athletes involved.
Fieldhouse Media points out that Snapchat is being used by 93% of student athletes, and that figure is second only to Facebook, which is used by 97%.
If you take a second to think about it, Snapchat being the most dangerous form of social media for today's student athletes makes a lot of sense. According to Osterman, 45% of Snapchat users "fall between the ages of 18 and 24," and the platform is still considered up and coming when you compare it to Facebook and Instagram. That translates the feeling among today's youth that it's the safest space to share the type of content that would otherwise cause a firestorm if those same snaps were shared on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.
To understand why, let's take a look at some numbers. According to research done last August by the Pew Research Center, 62% of the entire adult population use Facebook, compared to Instagram (24% of entire adult population), and Twitter (20% of entire adult population). While Snapchat was not included in those statistics, the Omni Core Agency notes that 71% of Snapchat users are under 34. That, combined with the belief that the content being shared is private and temporary is a big reason why young users feel that Snapchat is a safe place to share questionable content and decisions.
One of the other factors that makes Snapchat particularly dangerous is that, like a number of other platforms, users have the freedom to follow anyone they choose. As most of us know, many times the most popular figures on campus are student athletes, making their accounts some of the most followed and scrutinized accounts in the campus community.
I've touched base with a number of coaches around the country, and the general consensus is that staffs are doing a great job of keeping tabs on the Twitter and Instagram accounts of prospective student athletes. Snapchat is quickly becoming another medium that more and more college programs are keeping eyes on.
If you're a college coach, the best way to get a feel for a kid's character is to look where they think no one is paying attention, and right now, that platform is Snapchat. If you're a high school coach, making sure your players understand that may be the difference between landing a scholarship (or a job), and missing out.
As with all dangers connecting student athletes and social media, proactive education is the key to preventing issues, and Snapchat is clearly another platform that needs to be added to the list that includes Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for coaches to be monitoring.