Is New Instagram ‘Threads’ App Safer Than Snapchat?

by Screen Time Team on 16/10/2019

Stealing is the highest form of flattery, and Snapchat must feel incredibly flattered lately, because Facebook has just announced Threads, an app for Instagram that sounds, looks, and feels suspiciously like Snapchat. But there are a few important differences between it and Snapchat (the “self-destructing” image app) that parents should know about.

What Is Threads?

In Facebook’s words, Threads is a photo-sharing app for your Close Friends, that is, the people you’ve designated as a Close Friend on Instagram. In reality, it’s basically another messaging app, just more photography-based and tied to Instagram. Threads is as much a reaction to “finstas” or fake Instagrams – accounts that users share only with actual close friends – as it is to Snapchat.

Is Threads Safe?

Whether Threads is safe depends on your definition of “safe.” Leaving aside the fact that there are risks inherent to all social media, there are a few particular points of concern for parents. The first is “Auto Status,” an optional setting that will update a person’s list by drawing from location data, movement, and network connections to tell friends where a person is, in vague terms. The example Facebook gave was if you go to a coffee shop, Auto Status would update to “At a cafe” rather than giving a specific address.

The second concern is that friends’ lists aren’t shared with other users unless you tell them in person. If you’re worried about your teen’s less pleasant friends, this may be a way they talk to them without your knowing, for example. It is also not clear at this point whether Threads will share Snapchat’s parental controls.

That said, there are some upsides to the app. For example, users can’t contact users they’re not “Close Friends” with, so there’s no spam to deal with. And so far, there are no addictive features like Snapstreaks. But these advantages may not outweigh the downsides, for many parents.

Girl holding a pumpkin.

Should Parents Worry About Threads?

Worry? Probably not, but it’s worth looking at the settings of your parental control app and asking yourself whether Threads contradicts your family’s general rules. The app, in a broader sense, may not be around for long because the history of Facebook is littered with failed messaging apps. Remember the now-defunct Notify or Facebook Email? Still, however, parents should know what Threads is so they can decide if it’s acceptable for their kids to use.

It’s more a question of how it’s used and how that may intersect with your broader family agreement about phones, messaging, and media that should concern you. If there are certain people you don’t want your kids to talk to, Threads could be a problem. But Threads is designed to be curated, so if children are willing to share who their “Close Friends” are with you, then this may be a good introduction to the wider world of photo social media.

Finally, parents should consider the matter of privacy. One of the virtues of parental control apps is that they give kids a measure of personal freedom that’s lacking when you’re constantly looking over their shoulder. Instead of a guard, they have boundaries they can’t cross, and this can more effective in many families. Everyone needs some degree of emotional space, especially online, and Threads may be a useful way to grant it, within reason.

If you want to learn how to balance your kids’ smartphone usage against their other responsibilities,  sign up for Screen Time.

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Is New Instagram 'Threads' App Safer Than Snapchat?
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Is New Instagram 'Threads' App Safer Than Snapchat?
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Instagram is hoping to steal some of Snapchat's audience with Threads. But is it safe?
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Screen Time
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