Snapchat is a multimedia messaging app most popular with millenials and younger. While the site stared with individual users only, it has evolved to include companies and personalities. Users create an account, and follow other users. The unique feature of the app is that snaps are ephemeral in the app, of lengths up to 10s. Chat history is also deleted by default, and has to be saved if users want later access. Even the creator won’t be able to see the snaps in the future if they don’t save them to Memories. From memories, users can export snaps to their camera role, or move them to a My Eyes Only folder, where they are protected by a passcode. Snaps are photos or videos up to 10s in length. Each snap can have up to three geofilters added. In selfie mode, users can activate facial lenses that add features to the image, or modify the voice in a video. It is also possible to add captions and emoji to snaps. Once a snap is completed, the user can send it to a person, a group of people, or to Snapchat Stories. Snapchat Stories are like a newsfeed, where each of the snaps is viewable for 24 hours after it is added. Permissions for who can see the story is set in Settings. You can access snaps sent to you in Chat. In Stories, you can see all the stories of friends and people that you follow. You can also access Snapchat Discover to see other highlighted public stories, including those by external publishers. Some of these stories include articles as well.
Why Kids Like Snapchat
Snapchat’s is attractive to users because snaps self-destruct. This feels safer than uploading multimedia to spaces where they become part of the kid’s digital footprint. Geofilters and facial lenses make it fun to send snaps, and children feel like they can be more natural in that environment. Also, Snapchat is seen as an environment for the younger crowd, a place where there are few parents, with 85% of the users between 13 and 35.
Dangers of Snapchat
There is little danger of your child coming across unsafe digital content from people that they do not follow while using Snapchat. There are some publishers on Snapchat, and the content may be inappropriate for young children, but is unlikely to be porn. The danger of Snapchat is in how children use it, particularly in what they send and receive.
- Children may share private information, or inappropriate snaps in Stories.
- Kids feel safe using Snapchat because the multimedia disappears. They should know that it is possible for other people to capture the image or video before it disappears.
- Although messages self-destruct, there are apps that let users replay or make copies of snaps, and screenshots are also possible.
- Users can make calls, or video calls from the app.
- Chat history is easy to delete.
- The featured section shows stories from anyone, chosen by the app’s algorithm, and may have content that’s inappropriate for children.
- Snap streaks may encourage users to be obsessed with the app.
- Snapchat gets a bad rap for sexting.
- Snapchat collects and uses your location for geofilters and other features.
- Ads may feature content that is inappropriate for children.
Make Snapchat Safer
There are a number of possible settings in Snapchat to make it safer. Work with your child to explore those settings and enable them.
- Create a Snapchat account and learn about Snapchat from Business Insider or from the Snapchat Parent Guide.
- Talk to your child about the possible effects of sexting.
- Define acceptable and unacceptable uses with your child.
- Make sure your child knows that snaps and stories can be recorded by people who receive or view them.
- Co-create a friends list for sending/receiving snaps and stories with.
- Change settings to share Stories only with friends, or to specific people.
- Turn off location for Snapchat.
- Opt out of Find Friends and set privacy settings.
- To learn more about this topic, see reviews from Parent Zone, Protect Your Eyes, Common Sense Media, Be Web Smart, and NSPCC NetAware. Also, visit the Snapchat Safety Center.