What is Snapchat? Is Snapchat okay for kids?

snapchatMoving on from “Follow me on Instagram!” and “Kik Me!” you may now be seeing requests to “Snapchat me!” And if you’re not, your kids and teens are.  Snapchat is an app used to send photos to friends.  The unique feature of the app is straight out of “Mission Impossible” – once viewed, the photo self-destructs in a matter of seconds.  The app may offer a false sense of security for teens who think they can send an embarrassing picture without consequences.

Snapchat debuted in 2011 for iPhone (iPad, iPod touch) and is also available for Android devices.

[May 2015 – Snapchat’s popularity has increased since I first wrote this article in 2013. It’s now the 3rd most popular social network for teens, following Facebook and Instagram.  I’ve updated the information and screenshots, and added links to other Snapchat posts I’ve written since then. ]

How Snapchat works

Use the app to take a photo or video – most popular are “selfies” (picture of yourself) – and select a friend or group of friends to send it to.  They must also use Snapchat to receive the picture.  When sending, you choose how long the photo or video will be available for viewing, from 1 to 10 seconds.  When your friend receives the “snap” they must press and hold to view the picture or watch the video. After the time is up, the snap is no longer available.

Snapchat concerns

Snapchat is popular with teens – and you can see how it would be tempting to send any kind of picture (embarrassing, silly, naked….) knowing that it cannot be shared or saved.  Pictures won’t end up tagged and forever associated with you like on Facebook.  So the usual (healthy) inner voice of restraint may be passed over in lieu of impulsive sharing.

It is still possible that someone could take a screenshot of your picture (although they’d need deft fingers and you will be notified by the service of any screenshot-taking) meaning it could be shared with others.   There are other workarounds – which I won’t mention here so I won’t be passing on any ideas.   Even Snapchat’s own privacy agreement allows for the fact that a picture may not be immediately deleted from their servers.

“Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is transmitted, we cannot guarantee that the message content will be deleted in every case.”

Privacy settings on Snapchat

While limited there are a few choices here.  You can use a setting to only allow friends (those you have added to your list of Friends in Snapchat) to send you “snaps”.  This is under Settings.  Change the option from “Everyone” to “My Friends”.

Change the setting for who is allowed to send me snaps in Snapchat

You can also block someone from sending pictures to you.  (Maybe you added a friend and they start bombarding you with pictures all day long and you cannot get them to stop….well block ‘em and they’ll stop).  To block someone, find their name in your list of friends, click and hold their name for a second to bring up a some icons.  Click the settings icon (the first one, looks like a gear), and then Block. That friend can no longer send you photos in Snapchat.

Edit a friend listing in Snapchat  Block a friend in Snapchat to prevent unwanted snaps

Should you allow Snapchat?

The app is not intended for users under 13 and is rated 12+ in the iTunes app store.  So you can use restriction settings to make sure it can’t be downloaded by the younger set.

You may find that Snapchat is already in heavy rotation on your child’s iPod touch or your teen’s phone.  Review your teen’s list of friends.  Are there any you don’t know? Remove unknown names. Check privacy settings and set as explained above.

Not comfortable with the possibility of sexting? Get the app off the phone! However – keep in mind, removing one app doesn’t mean sexting will never happen. The unfortunate reality is that 20% of teens have sent or posted nude or seminude photographs or videos of themselves.  Ongoing discussions with your kids about internet safety and the consequences of over sharing is a must.  If it’s not Snapchat it will be the next new app on the block.

Other Snapchat articles on Be Web Smart:

More about Snapchat from around the web:


Share the Knowledge:

Never miss a post!

Sign Up for free e-mail updates


  1. trish says

    Thanks for the info, as always, very informative. I always wondered if there was “someone” reviewing these 3-second pictures, like the FCC “bleeping” someone that swears or has a “wardrobe malfunction” on tv….

      • Bill says

        Huh? What possible need is there for something to disappear in 3 seconds unless you are doing something you shouldn’t?

  2. Sally says

    Hey I love this! So helpful! I have 3 children with apple devices and I was wondering what snapchat is and now I know thanks!

  3. Liz says

    This is very timely Jean as Anna’s 16 year old cousin got her into this and I was wondering about how safe it was. Thanks for the info! Liz

  4. Ward says

    Our 14yo daughter had her iPhone taken away and we noticed some new snapchat notifications on the screen. When we gave her back her phone we said we would like to view those with her. But she said she already viewed them on her iPad! Is that possible? We suspect she looked at them on her phone before we told her.

    • Jean says

      Hi Ward,
      That is a great question. I can’t say for sure until I get a chance to test that out (I have Snapchat on my iPhone – for testing purposes – but not on an iPad just yet). I would guess it might be possible if she uses the same Snapchat account/username on both devices. If I am able to find the answer I’ll reply again to this comment.

    • Jean says

      Looks like this is possible – if you have Snapchat on two devices (phone and iPad for example) using the same username. I sent myself a snapchat photo and viewed it on my iPhone. Then opened Snapchat on the iPad and it was already viewed. Not saying for sure this was the case with your daughter but it is possible. Good luck! :-)

  5. Angelina says

    omg this is so helping me! Unlike that blog “help” page i looked up 2 nights ago. Can anyboday tell me how to post soething on blogger?

  6. John says

    There are even applications like “Snapgrab” on the Android store which can save these photos and bypass the whole idea, people’s photos are not safe!

    • Jean says

      I’m not sure as I have not personally tried being logged into the same account on two different devices. I will give it a try and reply back!

  7. jen says

    I would like to use snapchat on two different devices. my android phone and my iphone. atm I am logged in on snapchat on my iPhone and would log in on my android device with the same username as well, but it doesnt work. it always tells me on my android device that the password isn’t right and I should try it again. but it is. I even reseted it. I also logged out on my iPhone to see if it’s working on my android then, but it’s not. can anyone help me, please? and knows the problem?

  8. Jonathan says

    Honestly, snapchat is what you make of it and it can be used for good and bad, but shouldn’t the parent be teaching their kids right from wrong and teaching them to be responsible with such things. If you honestly suspect them of doing somthing like this, have a conversation with your child and teach them right from wrong and tell them what could be happen as a result from it. Please have probable cause, if they simply have the app it means nothing. I entrust my child with snapchat and access freely to the internet because I believe that I have taught my child well and have done my job as a parent. Good luck you guys.

    • Jean says

      Thanks for the comment Jonathan. I think that’s the case with most apps – they are what you make of them, and in most cases they can be used safely wit proper guidance. You can block users and prevent strangers from sending you “snaps” so for the older, responsible teens it may be appropriate.

    • Bill says

      What possible need is there to have a text/picture disappear in 3 seconds? No reason to have this unless you are doing something you shouldn’t

      • Shaniah says

        it isn’t 3 seconds. You can set it for different times. You can set it anywhere from 1 to 10 seconds

Comment Policy: Your comments are encouraged! As mentioned in my Comment Policy, comments will not be published that are spam or questionable spam, use profanity or inappropriate language, personal attacks, or offensive terms. Comments are moderated before being published. I try to respond to all questions in comments, but may not be able to respond to all. Due to an increase in spam, I have to ask you to do some simple math to prove you're not a spam robot....thanks!!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *