In today’s digital world, social media platforms have become a regular part of our everyday lives, transforming the way we connect with one another and share information. Among the many platforms, Snapchat stands out as one of the popular messaging apps among young people, enabling them to communicate through disappearing messages, quirky filters, and instant photo sharing.

While the Snapchat app offers an engaging experience with cool and quirky features, it can also carry risks. Especially for children and teenagers.

In this post, I will explore the potential dangers that Snapchat poses to the well-being of young people and discuss strategies for protecting them without compromising their privacy or resorting to intrusive measures. I will also be frank about my experience with Snapchat and a 10-year-old!

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a popular messaging app that allows users to send and receive photos, videos, and text messages that are supposed to disappear once viewed, although there are ways to save these “snaps”.

The app also offers various fun features, including filters, stickers, and augmented reality lenses, which users can apply to their photos and videos. Additionally, Snapchat incorporates a “Stories” feature, where users can share photos and videos that are visible to their friends for 24 hours before being removed.

Over the years, Snapchat has evolved beyond its messaging roots and introduced additional functionalities like Snap Map, Discover, and Snap Originals, making it a comprehensive multimedia platform for content consumption, social interaction, and entertainment.

However, while Snapchat provides an exciting and engaging experience for its users, it also comes with certain risks and potential dangers, especially for children and teenagers.

These concerns range from privacy issues and cyberbullying to exposure to explicit or harmful content. It is important for users and parents/guardians to be aware of these risks and take appropriate measures to ensure a safe and responsible use of the app.

How old do you have to be to use Snapchat?

According to Snapchat’s terms of service, users must be at least 13 years old to create an account and use the app.

This age requirement is in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) in the United States, which aims to protect the privacy of children under the age of 13.

Snapchat’s age requirement is based on the assumption that users aged 13 and above are more capable of understanding the platform’s features and potential risks, as well as making responsible choices regarding their online behavior.

The age limit also ensures compliance with various privacy regulations and guidelines related to online services targeting younger audiences.

However, it’s important to note that age restrictions on social media platforms can be difficult to enforce effectively.

Users can falsify their birthdates during the account creation process, potentially allowing underage individuals to access and use Snapchat.

Therefore, parental guidance and monitoring are essential to ensure that young users are engaging with the app in a safe and appropriate manner.

I set up a Snapchat account for my 10-year-old so he could talk with his friends from our street and a few from his class. Especially useful when it was raining and they wanted to arrange who’s house they should go to without getting soaking wet!

Do messages really vanish on Snapchat?

While Snapchat’s primary feature is the temporary nature of its messages, it’s important to note that messages on Snapchat can potentially be saved or preserved in various ways, contrary to the notion of complete vanishing.

By default, when users send a photo or video message on Snapchat, it will disappear after being viewed by the recipient. However, there are methods through which recipients can save or capture the content, even though the app notifies the sender if screen captures are taken. A screenshot allows the recipient to store the image or video on their device, bypassing the ephemeral nature of Snapchat’s design.

Moreover, third-party smartphone apps and other devices can be used to capture or save Snapchat messages without the sender’s knowledge.

These methods may include using another phone or camera to record the content while it’s being displayed on the recipient’s device.

It’s also worth mentioning that although the content may disappear from the recipient’s device,

Snapchat servers retain certain metadata, such as timestamps and message logs, for a limited period. This data is primarily used for delivering messages, ensuring proper functionality, and enforcing terms of service.

What are Streaks?

Streaks on Snapchat refer to a feature that encourages users to maintain a continuous and consecutive exchange of snaps (photos or videos) with their snapchat friends for multiple consecutive days. When two users send snaps to each other for consecutive days, they build a streak, and the number of days they have maintained the streak is displayed next to their names in the app.

Streaks are represented by a fire emoji 🔥, which becomes increasingly accompanied by numbers as the streak grows. The longer the streak, the higher the number displayed. Streaks have become a popular element of engagement and competition on the platform, adding a sense of accomplishment and friendly rivalry among users.

Be warned as if you remove a phone from your child as a punishment and they lose a streak you may prolong their attitude. It is almost like an addiction – from my experience.

What’s Snapchat Discover?

Snapchat Discover is an area in the app where users can discover a wide variety of content including news articles, entertainment updates, lifestyle tips, behind-the-scenes footage, interactive quizzes, and much more.

Publishers on Discover can include traditional news outlets, digital media companies, celebrities, influencers, and even Snapchat’s own content initiatives, such as Snap Originals.

The content on Discover is designed to be engaging, visually appealing, and optimized for the mobile viewing experience. Users have the option to swipe through different articles or videos within a publisher’s content, and they can also share individual pieces of content with their friends or save them for later viewing.

Snapchat Discover provides a convenient way for users to discover and consume a wide variety of content from trusted sources and creative voices, all within the Snapchat app.

We have a rule with my 10 year old that Snapchat Discovery is a no go area right now.

What is a Snap Code?

What other features does Snapchat offer? As you engage more with the app, you accumulate points, and your Snapchat score increases. High scorers are rewarded with trophies and other benefits. Here are some additional Snapchat features:

  • Cameos: These are animated GIFs that incorporate your selfie, which you can send in a chat. Snapchat provides numerous video templates where you can insert your image, including “duets” featuring both you and a friend.
  • Face and World Lenses: Face lenses are features like cartoon cat ears and whiskers that you can add to your face in a photo. In contrast, world lenses bring augmented reality components like rainbows into your photo, making them appear as if they’re part of the real world. It’s important to note that lenses are considered “overlays” and require payment on Snapchat.
  • Geofilters: These are unique features that are only accessible when you’re in a specific location. Many businesses utilize geo-filters as a marketing strategy, encouraging customers to check in and promote their location. For example, a teenager could design a special geo-filter for their sweet-16 party for attendees to use in their photos.
  • Snap Store: As the name suggests, this is a virtual store where Snapchat-related items can be purchased.
  • Scan: This feature helps users identify a song that’s playing, recognize a dog’s breed, and access other information.
  • Snap Games: These are multiplayer games featuring voice/text chat and ads, which can be initiated from the chat section to play with friends.
  • Sounds: This is a feature similar to TikTok that allows users to add music to their snaps.
  • Memories: If you wish to keep your snaps instead of them disappearing, you can store them in Memories to view and send later. The My Eyes Only feature allows you to save Memories behind a passcode for private viewing.
  • Spotlight: This feature, akin to TikTok, compiles snaps submitted by users into a massive feed. Once you submit a snap to Spotlight, it becomes public and can be viewed by anyone, even those not on the platform.
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Getting Started

  1. Download and Sign Up: Snapchat can be downloaded for free from the App Store (for iOS devices) or Google Play Store (for Android devices). After downloading, users need to create an account with a unique username and password.
  2. Adding Contacts: Snapchat can sync with the contacts in your phone or you can manually add friends by typing their usernames into the search bar.

A Guide to Snapchat:

  1. Taking a Snap: To take a snap, simply open the app (it will automatically open to the camera), and tap the circle at the bottom of the screen. Tap it once for a photo or hold it down for a video. You can also switch to the selfie camera by tapping the camera icon in the top right corner or by double-tapping anywhere on the screen.
  2. Using Snapchat Filters and Lenses: Before or after taking a snap, you can swipe left or right on the screen to add filters, which can change the color of the photo, the sound of the video, or even add information like the time or temperature. Lenses are more interactive and can be accessed by pressing and holding on the screen before taking a snap. These can add effects like dog ears or a dancing hot dog.
  3. Sending a Snap: After taking a snap, you can send it to friends by tapping the blue arrow icon, selecting the friends you want to send it to, and tapping the arrow again.
  4. Stories: You can also post snaps to your “Story,” which is a collection of snaps that your friends can view for 24 hours.
  5. Chatting: You can send text messages to friends by swiping right on their name in your Friends screen.
snapchat guide

Privacy and Safety:

When it comes to privacy and safety on Snapchat, open communication between parents and their children is paramount. Initiating discussions about these topics can help ensure a safer experience and protect underage users from adult content:

Privacy Settings

Parents should guide their children to adjust their privacy settings on Snapchat to “Friends Only”. This ensures that only trusted individuals can contact them and view their stories.

Snap Map

This feature shows where other users are on a map. It’s important for your child to activate Ghost Mode, which prevents their location from being shared with others.

Saving Snaps

It’s important to remind children that snaps, despire their disappearing nature, can still be saved through screen shots and recording methods so they should be mindful about what content they choose to share.

Reporting and Blocking

Educate your child about reporting and blocking features, empowering them to take action against any individuals who may be causing distress.

Sexting and Inappropriate Content

Discussing the risks of sexting and receiving inappropriate content is crucial. Help your child understand the potential consequences and emphasize the importance of responsible digital behaviour.

By addressing these points, parents can foster a safer Snapchat experience for their children while promoting awareness, resilience, and responsible use of the platform.

 

Can you monitor your child’s Snapchat?

Snapchat’s Family Center provides parents and caregivers a glimpse into their child’s activity on the app, including the people with whom they’ve been interacting. To use this feature, adults need to download the app, create an account, and connect with their child by adding them as a friend.

The child must then accept an invitation to enable the Family Center functionality. Keep in mind that while you can see your child’s friend list and who they’ve sent messages, photos, or videos to in the past week, you cannot view the specific content of these interactions.

If you decide to allow Snapchat usage, it’s crucial to focus on the privacy settings. Explore the app’s settings with your child or teen. This is an excellent opportunity to have a conversation about safe and responsible Snapchat usage. Decide on the frequency and circumstances of your check-ins on their app usage, and discuss how they feel about these guidelines. Acknowledge the importance of social media in their lives while emphasizing your role in ensuring their safety. Encourage your teenager to share some of their snaps with you and demonstrate the features they enjoy using in the app. This approach can demystify the platform for you, fostering an atmosphere of mutual understanding and collaboration.

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What I learned from my 10-year-old having Snapchat.

“Friends” are the worst. I am not sure if I am getting old or out of touch, but the way they speak to each other is awful.

My child was a little stressed and down after he looked at his phone. When he told me what had been said the first time I hoped it was a one-off and someone was just having a bad day. This escalated over a few weeks to the point his friend’s group were all calling him names. “Autistic C**T” was a favourite as was “gay bastard.” Now let me be clear there is nothing wrong with either of these things (my child is on the spectrum) but it was the venom in which it was said to a 10-year-old and how it made him feel. Those in the group who didn’t call him names either laughed along or just stayed quiet.

Leaving the group is easy. However, it was like these children were able to be so horrid online with no consequences that they then took it offline!

With the introduction of Snapchat to their group it was like this switch flipped and they had nothing to hold bad their insults.

I feel lucky as I have great experience with social media platforms and the hate that I can get from strangers, so in some way, I knew what to be prepared for. I was able to give my child all the knowledge on safety and protecting yourself from people online. I was also lucky my child felt he could talk to me about it and I was able to help him navigate the situation.