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.

How Snapchat works

Snap a picture – 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 picture 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.  After the time is up, the picture 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.   And 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” and then click Save.

Who is allowed to send me snaps? My friends

You can also block a friend 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, swipe to the right, click Edit and click Block.  That friend can no longer send you photos in Snapchat.

Edit a friend listing in Snapchat  Block a friend on Snapchat

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! 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.

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About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.