If you have teens, there’s a huge likelihood they use the social media platform Snapchat.
And, if you’re not sure how Snapchat works don’t stress because you’re like many parents who struggle to keep up with social media trends.
As one of the most popular social media apps out there for teens and tweens, Snapchat gives that target group of users what they really want: a simple way to share their everyday moments while simultaneously making them look awesome.
And, unlike Facebook and Instagram, Snapchat is most commonly known as a means of sharing messages that are meant to disappear.
But like so many other popular social media apps, Snapchat is a bit of a mixed bag and a mystery to many parents. That’s precisely why it’s important for parents and caregivers to understand how the platform works, how kids use it, and how much time they spend on it.
And of course, like all social media platforms, Snapchat poses some significant safety and well-being risks for younger teens so their usage on the app should be monitored.
In relation to allowing you to communicate with and pursue buddies, Snapchat provides a bunch more exciting things: matches, media and recreation, quizzes, and truly creative picture and video editing instruments.
We know that kids spend hours glued to their devices and there’s something about clicking, sending, and then remembering some of life’s little moments that are hugely attractive to kids, and that’s what they’re mostly using Snapchat for. Mostly.
But other characteristics of the platform can present some hazards: Snap Map allows users to see each other’s place on a map, and this is of course problematic and not always secure ; Snapstreaks is a feature encouraging kids to swap posts as possible, which is a big time-suck and encourages them to use the app almost addictively; and Discover can provide access to age-inappropriate material.
However, despite the potential dangers with your supervision, adequate security and clear boundaries Snapchat can be a fun place for teenagers to hang out and communicate with each other.
Is Snapchat secure for teenagers and tweens?
Most young people use Snapchat to muck around and keep in touch with their friends in a fun way but there have been many reported instances of cyberbullying over Snapchat.
Also, there’s certainly the potential to access mature content and the risk of having your location disclosed to strangers. I’d go so far to say it’s an app that’s suitable for most teens aged 16 and over but I’d honestly be reluctant to let younger kids have access.
Here are 6 basic things about Snapchat I think parents should be aware of
You can block other users
If your child is being harassed, bullied or receiving unwanted content on Snapchat, there’s an option to block others.
Blocking someone will prevent them from receiving snaps, watching chats, or watching your stories. You can also remove others from your contact list and doing so will take them from your contact list and they won’t be able to leave you messages. For more information on preventing and deleting Snapchat contacts go to: snapchat.com/a/block-friends
Abuse can be reported
If unwanted or abusive contact is received, it can and should be reported. Users should submit any improper material or intimidation to Snapchat. There’s actually a segment devoted to this on their blog and app users are encouraged to report abuse and/or inappropriate material. For further information, head to: snapchat.com/co/other-abuse
Users can save Snaps
What was intended to make Snapchat different to other apps is that shared messages vanish after a certain period of time. But not everyone knows it’s actually possible for snapchats to be captured and retrieved. While the Snapchat app does not have this capacity, there are many, many third-party applications that can be used to record messages on Snapchat and this is a huge red flag for unknowing users who’ve assumed their sent message will disappear. Users can also screenshot Snaps, but Snapchat generally will indicate if this has happened…. however, users should be aware this isn’t 100% accurate.
Your location might be seen
Snapchat allows users to share their current location with friends / contacts using the Geofilters function or Snap Map feature. If someone has the location feature enabled on their mobile and filters switched on within Snapchat, sharing their current location is very simple. Users can simply send others information about where they are by swiping directly on the Snap they’re sending. This feature can be disabled by securing the location features on their phone and to maintain privacy this option in the Snapchat app should also be turned off. For a further explanation of how Snap Map works go to: webwise.ie/parents/snap-map/
Saving inappropriate Snaps can get kids into trouble
Snapchat is unfortunately used by some teenagers to send sexually explicit pictures. Despite much education on the topic, many young people remain unaware that taking, storing or exchanging this type of image is a criminal offense. It is illegal to produce, store, send or sell explicit pictures of anyone under the age of 18. This behaviour can have severe ramifications, including criminal prosecution and being placed on the national register of convicted sex offenders. It’s often misunderstood that the legislation definitely also applies to self-generated ‘naked selfies’ and anyone who shares this type of personal material faces significant consequences.
Users can send Snaps from one friend to another
Snapchat Stories has become increasingly popular and it’s a function that enables users to compile photos / videos into a story that can be shared with others. Unlike normal Snaps, Snapchat Stories last 24 hours and can be viewed more than once by anyone connected to user who posted it. A recent Snapchat update now allows users to submit a Snap from a friend’s story to another user (via private message). This is something that Snapchatters should be cautious about, as it gives less control over who might see your story. The best advice, as always, is not to share anything you wouldn’t want your Grandma to see!
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On a side note, are you a member of our closed and confidential FACEBOOK GROUP? It’s a cool place to hang out where parents of teens – just like you – connect privately to support each other. You’ll love it!