Is Snapchat Safe and Private for Kids?
As a parent, you may have been pestered by your kids about accessing Snapchat. Lots of children are drawn to this social platform to connect with their friends and follow the goings-on of their favorite celebrities and brands. But is Snapchat safe for children to use, and what are the hidden dangers parents must be aware of?
Below, we cover everything you should know about this popular app and give you the information you need to ensure your kids are using Snapchat as safely as possible. Let’s dive in.
- What is Snapchat?
- What Age is Snapchat Safe For?
- What Should You Avoid on Snapchat?
- Does Snapchat Have Safety Features?
- How to Use Snapchat Safely: Easy Points
What is Snapchat?
The Snapchat app is free to download and allows users to post and exchange Snaps—pictures and videos. Once viewed, these Snaps disappear, although if set as a Story, they’ll remain viewable for twenty-four hours so that all a Snapchat user’s friends can view the content for a full day. After this time, it’ll be automatically deleted.
Most users of the Snapchat messaging app take photos or videos, add lenses, filters, or other effects, and then share this content with friends. There’s a premium subscription plan, too, called Snapchat+.
How Does Snapchat Work?
To sign up for Snapchat, you’ll need to provide your name, date of birth, and email address or phone number. Once your account is created, you can add Snapchat friends by either manually searching for people or uploading your contacts. Alternatively, you can add a friend by taking a photo of their Snapcode: this is a QR code unique to each user.
When it comes to sharing and managing Snaps, there are two ways to do so. Firstly, there’s individual messaging, and secondly, there’s the group chat option, allowing the whole group to get involved and contribute.
Mostly, communication is initiated on this app via an image or video rather than a text message. To get started, a user must tap the big camera icon on the screen to take a Snap. If desired, users can customize their Snap using the various filters and photo-editing tools available. Once done, the Snap can be sent to anyone on the user’s friends list or added to their Story. It can also be added to the user’s Snap Map, which displays the user’s location on a map that’s viewable to all other users of Snapchat.
What Age is Snapchat Safe For?
Users must be thirteen or over to use the Snapchat app, according to Snapchat’s terms of service. However, as the platform carries out no age verification, it’s easy for kids under this age to sign up. The platform Common Sense Media suggests that the app is appropriate for ages sixteen and over due to users’ exposure to data-collecting marketing ploys and the possibility of encountering inappropriate content.
What Should You Avoid on Snapchat?
While this app is very popular with teen users, there are some dangers of Snapchat that parents should be aware of to keep their kids safe and enjoying a healthy online experience. Key to this is understanding how the app works, and the potential risks it poses. This guide will explain more about both of these things.
Snapchat Risk 1: Does not Store Old Photos
The app does not store old photos, but this shouldn’t give you a false sense of security: hacking and screenshot capabilities are just a couple of means by which old images or videos could resurface or be saved. There are even companies out there offering programs to restore old Snapchats.
Snapchat Risk 2: Inappropriate Content
This is the big question, in terms of whether is Snapchat safe for kids. Unfortunately, this is where things get dicey. Snapchat incorporates a Discover gallery, featuring content that users can interact with. This content could be brand advertising or videos from popular Snapchat users. What’s always the case, however, is that its content generates a lot of hits, meaning there’s a huge element of clickbait at play.
As a result of this, the Discover section tends to feature a lot of explicit content, that you definitely don’t want your teen viewing.
Read also Safe Social Media Apps for Kids.
Snapchat Risk 3: Snap Maps Show User Locations
While creating their Snaps, Snapchat users can see where their friends are located using the Snap Map feature. There are controls that can be put in place regarding this feature of the app, but things are different if a user posts to their Story.
Our Story is a public feed, and two users (or more) can communicate, even if they don’t know each other, directly via the Snap Map if they’re near each other. So if your teen gives out personal information and posts it to Our Story, this can not only be seen by the entire Snapchat community but potentially put on the World Snap Map—complete with their location and whatever personal details they’ve shared.
To make Snapchat safe—or as safe as possible—it’s vital to ensure that your child’s location-sharing settings are adjusted appropriately.
Snapchat Risk 4: Snapcode by Virtual Strangers
Snapchat makes it so easy to find friends, including by using QR Snapcodes, that it can be easy for your child to accept friend requests from people they don’t actually know. For parents, this can be a key concern regarding the question is Snapchat safe for kids.
There are many reasons why having strangers (or virtual strangers) on your teen’s Snapchat friends list is risky. To this end, it’s crucial to speak frankly with your child about the importance of only accepting friend requests from people they know.
Snapchat Risk 5: Discover Area and Ads
The Discover area in Snapchat offers content created by celebs, brands, popular Snapchat users, and entertainment and news outlets. Users can subscribe to specific Discover sources to get their feeds if they wish.
In terms of kids or teen Snapchat users, Discover needs to be approached with extreme caution. While there is some legit content, there’s also plenty of sensational, promotional, or adult material—such as images of people who have undergone extreme plastic surgery.
Your child is also likely to come across content inviting users to ‘swipe up,’ for example, to learn more, which will usually direct them to advertising content or to take a quiz designed to capture data.
To help ensure that your kid is only shown age-appropriate content via Discover, ensure they’ve entered their correct date of birth upon signing up to the app, meaning that adult content and ads for alcohol should be filtered out.
Snapchat Risk 6: Privacy and Safety
While it’s true that Snaps disappear once viewed, this doesn’t stop users from downloading and saving Snaps they’ve created themselves. Swiping up from the camera screen allows users to access a section called Memories to view these downloaded images and videos. Users can also access the My Eyes Only feature from this screen, which allows users to add password protection to images they want to keep extra private.
Obviously, this could be a concern for parents, as My Eyes Only could potentially be used as a password-protected repository for inappropriate content—especially as the photos that can be stored here don’t need to have originated from Snapchat. To access My Eyes Only, you’ll need to know the user’s four-digit pin. The provision of this could be a condition of allowing your teen to use Snapchat, perhaps, to ensure that this particular feature isn’t misused.
Snapchat Risk 7: The Time Distraction
This popular messaging app can be lots of fun to use, which is exactly why teens (and adults!) are drawn to it! However, the inherent time pressure of quickly disappearing Snaps can result in your child wanting to check the app constantly throughout the day, which can get in the way of schoolwork, family time, or hanging out with friends in real life.
It’s very important to keep an eye on your teen’s use of Snapchat and intervene if you think they are spending too much time on the app or if they seem to be feeling any pressure or stress as a result of interacting with Snapchat.
Related: Dangerous Apps’ List for Kids and Tweens.
Does Snapchat Have Safety Features?
Snapchat has several safety features, including reporting and blocking tools and the facility to disable location features. The app has also introduced a Safety Advisory Board, that’s on a mission to ‘educate, challenge, raise issues, and advise Snapchatters on how to keep the Snapchat community safe.’
As a result, Snapchat has deployed other features designed to promote the wellness of Snapchatters:
- Here For You—a tool designed to safeguard users’ mental health by providing proactive in-app support to assist Snapchatters who may be experiencing issues themselves or want to know how to help if they have friends dealing with problems.
- Snapchat Family Center—this tool is designed to give parents insights into who their teens have been communicating with on Snapchat, and who their friends are, while remaining respectful of their privacy and autonomy.
- Safety Snapshot—this digital literacy program aims to help people use Snapchat safely by educating Snapchatters about privacy, data, security, and staying safe online.
- Updated privacy for under 18s—there are no browsable public profiles for users under the age of eighteen.
- Default chat functions—by default, users cannot chat or contact others directly unless each has added the other as a friend.
Is Snapchat safe for kids? Deploying the privacy and safety features, and becoming familiar with Snapchat’s parental privacy controls can make it safer, if not perfect.
How to Use Snapchat Safely: Easy Points
There are several essential things that parents can do to ensure their teen is using the Snapchat app as safely as possible.
- Firstly, ensure your child has adjusted their privacy settings to allow for two-factor authentication. If they are using the My Eyes Only feature, you’ll need to consider if you’re happy for them to be able to password-protect specific images unless you are also given the password.
- Make sure that the privacy settings are adjusted to control who can see their Story.
- It’s vital that parents engage with their kids about the importance of only allowing their teen’s existing friends to contact them.
- Kids’ profiles should be hidden from Quick Add.
- Ensure that your teen understands the possible implication of putting information ‘out there’—if it’s something they want to keep private, they shouldn’t be tempted to post it.
- Speak to your teen about the importance of never openly sharing their Snapchat username or Snapcode.
- Only people known to your teen should be added to their Snapchat contacts; they should never accept friend requests from strangers or send messages to people they don’t know.
- Use a tool like the Kids360 app to set time limits on how long your teen can spend using games and other apps so that they enjoy a healthier, more balanced online experience. Active Snapchatters open the app an average of thirty times a day, which demonstrates how excessive use can easily creep in.
- To add an additional layer of safety, Snapchat should be used on a device that deploys virus protection, a firewall, and other tools such as an app locker.
If you’re looking for an answer to the question, ‘Is Snapchat safe for kids?’ then the answer is yes… and no!
According to the platform itself, it’s not suitable for users under the age of thirteen. Those over this age can open a Snapchat account. However, it’s important to be aware that the app deploys no form of age verification, so is entirely reliant on kids being honest when entering their date of birth.
Explicit content is readily available on Snapchat, and the platform also features advertising. Plus, the location features and the nature of Our Story means that, unless the default settings are changed, your child could be putting out to the world personal information, including exactly where they are located.
That’s the bad news. The good news, however, is that there are lots of tools and Snapchat features, including those we’ve listed above, allowing users to set privacy and safety restrictions and prevent underage users from being shown age-inappropriate content. While any online forum may never be 100% safe for kids, if parents deploy these features, familiarize themselves thoroughly with the app, and engage with their teens about their use of the platform, Snapchat can provide a fun, relatively safe arena in which kids can engage with their friends.
What is the Safest Way to Use Snapchat?
Ensure that all the relevant privacy and safety features are deployed on your kids’ Snapchat accounts, especially those around location sharing, and ensure that your teen isn’t able to access inappropriate content. Kids should be told never to accept friend requests from strangers and to notify parents if anything happens on the platform that makes them uncomfortable.
Which is Safer, Instagram, or Snapchat?
For kids, Snapchat is likely to be a safer choice; unlike Instagram or other social platforms, content isn’t searchable, and Snapchat works by sending videos and images on a one-to-one basis. For this reason, many people believe that users are less likely to encounter cyberbullying on this platform or feel pressured to rack up large numbers of likes.
Can Kids be Targeted by Online Predators on Snapchat?
Unfortunately, this can happen. However, by ensuring that your teen only accepts friend requests from people they know and that the location settings have been changed so that your child’s physical location is not displayed, you can reduce the likelihood of this.
While Snapchat may seem to be an easy way to make new friends, it’s vital to regularly engage with your teen about their use of the app and make sure they know the importance of not accepting a friend request or otherwise making contact with someone they don’t know.
What is Ghost Mode on Snapchat?
Once Ghost Mode is turned on, Snapchat instantly stops sharing the user’s location. To turn on Ghost Mode, simply head to the app and click on the Bitmoji in the top left-hand corner of the screen. Now tap on the gear icon to open up Settings. Scroll down to Privacy Controls and select See My Location. Enable the Ghost Mode toggle and select the duration of time you wish Ghost Mode to be active.
The picture on the front page: NYC Russ/Shutterstock.com
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