With its popular filters and ways to keep up with friends, Snapchat attracts plenty of teens and is indeed one of the most popular social messaging
Is SnapChat a safe app for my kids to use? For several reasons such as the lack of tracking, disappearing media, and location visibility, the answer for any concerned or cautious parent is a quick No!
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a photo and video messaging application that can be downloaded to any Android and iOS devices which allows users to send photos and videos in a form of a “snaps” to anyone in their friends list. In addition, Snapchat offers cool stuff like games, news, entertainment, quizzes and innovative photo- and video-editing tools wherein Snapusers can have the ability to draw on snaps with variety of colours as well as add custom text or fun filters to videos. Unlike other social networks, which keep your content online forever unless you decide to delete it, photos and videos in Snapchat disappear after a certain period that they’ve been viewed by its recipients. Snapchat also added new features, including Snapchat Stories which allow users the option of posting their photos and videos to be viewed by everyone or just their friends for 24 hours. There is also Text Messaging wherein Snapchat users can also send text messages to friends when using the chat feature and once it is viewed by both parties the message will be deleted. Another feature which is the Video Replay allows user to choose to replay a video once every day.
What do you need to know about Snapchat?
If your kids are in Snapchat it’s a smart idea to see how it works, how your children use it and how much time they spend on it so you can explore if there are dangers that go with it.
- It is relatively private
As per its terms of service, Snapchat is not intended for children under the age of 13. One must enter a birth date to set up an account, but there’s no age verification, so it’s simple for kids under 13 to sign up. Parents need to understand that kids enjoy Snapchat, in light of the fact that it is one of the only app that is relatively private. Even parents who do have access to their kid’s Snapchat account are unlikely to see the messages sent and received through the app which is a big challenge for parents because there’s no real way to see your kid’s activity unlike on the other social media platforms. Since there’s no feed to scroll, there’s not much to monitor.
- It has illusion of invisibility
Snapchat was created in 2011 by then Stanford university students Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. They wanted to encourage a more genuine social media experience to people by recreating the moments that happen in real life. The idea is people will be more authentic with their Snaps, by sending non-perfect moments filled with humour and spontaneity. Unlike on the other social network, perfection isn’t the objective of the app. “Real life” is its goal. As time went by, the app turned out to be progressively famous to younger people, which aims to create a worry-free, low-pressure environment where people can share fun or silly stuff without consequence since it won’t stay around for long. Photos and videos sent through Snapchat are supposed to disappear. That’s what makes it fun, but it also creates a false sense of security. Sure in theory, messages disappear forever, however Snapchat keeps everything on its server. And all it takes is a swipe to the right, or a screenshot, for the recipient to keep whatever photos and videos that is sent them to be kept forever.
What are the dangers of Snapchat?
- “sexting” and pornography
Because of the disappearing nature of images and videos, the app can be utilized for ‘sexting’ and pornography. Snapchat offers a false sense of security with its invisibility cloak that gives a feeling that all is well in the world because everything will vanish in seconds, this baits young people to think that if they send body revealing pictures it will harmlessly disappear in a moment. But snaps can be screen-snatched by anybody, since Snapchat doesn’t prevent recipients from taking a screenshot and saving the Snaps, at this point it can be shared and sent along with anyone in other ways. To Snapchat’s credit, if a receiver takes a screenshot of the photo, the sender is notified, but understanding the possibility that self-destructing photos could be saved and shared forever is something that kids need to think about before using the app.
- Location Sharing
Introduced in 2017, one of the features of Snapchat is the Snap Map, it allows users to share location in real time with anyone on the friend list. Since some of the Snapchat contacts may not be real friends, this is a big risk, because it turns out that anyone following you on snapchat can pinpoint your location in a few feet that means that wherever your kids are at the moment these feature of the app can reveal their exact location at any time.
How can your kids safely use Snapchat?
As parents, you need to be vigilant about the apps you will allow your kids to use. You need to set the guidelines for your kid’s safety. Before allowing them to use Snapchat, discuss and clarify the expectations and responsibilities that go with it.
- Ghost Mode Location Services
Since one of the Snapchat’s features is to share a person’s location, wherein your child can share their location with friends, this could connect your child to total strangers who happen to be in the vicinity. To avoid this, you should turn on Ghost Mode in the settings to prevent location sharing. Go to the apps Settings menu, click Manage – Permissions. Look for Location and activate Ghost Mode. You may need to go into your phone’s general Settings menu to see it.
- Limit who your child’s contact
To use Snapchat one needs to add friends to the app’s contact list. These can be contacts from phone’s address book, or people found by searching for their user names, users nearby and contacts made using Snapcode, which is a scannable barcode unique to each Snapchat user. With ease of access to anybody, your child could be at risk from bullying from people they connect with or they may be exposed to harmful content at an early age. To avoid this, limit your child’s contact by shutting the Quick Add menu, in Settings – Who Can – Show Me in Quick Add and turn it off. If ever somebody upset your child you can also protect your child by blocking them. Tap the Menu and click Block. Click here for more on Deleting and Blocking. The person blocked won’t be notified.
- Choose your child’s friend and followers
Your child can share a Snap or Chat with anyone from their friends list. By default, only the users your child have in friends list can send their snaps. If a stranger tries to contact , your child can choose to add them as a friend or not. Go to the Settings menu and look for Who Can – Contact Me and select My Friends. This means only people your child has added can send them a Snap. You can also restrict who can see their Story. To specify exactly who among your child’s friends can view it, go to Settings – Who Can – View My Story and use Custom to block specific friends.
All social networks have potential problems. And because Snapchat photos and videos disappear within seconds, many kids in Snapchat often think they can send whatever they want without worrying on staying on someone’s device. Although the photos or videos were supposed to be deleted after being delivered, unfortunately many smartphones have a screenshot features and there’s nothing to stop the recipient to easily take a screenshot of a content that is sent to them, there can even be app built specifically to capture the snaps, which means that a permanent image of that photo or video can be kept, and that “snap” can last forever and can be shared online within seconds. Well, Snapchat alerts a person when someone has taken a screenshot of their message, but there is no way to prevent anybody from doing so. Ask your child to think twice before sending photos and videos using the app. Remind your child that still, Prevention is better than Cure.