How Kids Can Safely Use Snapchat

Snapchat is an incredibly popular app among teens and pre-teens, and many of them gravitate to the app because Snapchat isn’t on their parents’ social media radar. According to DMR’s media statistics, 30 percent of Snapchat users frequent the app because their parents don’t use it.

The appeal of Snapchat is its veil of invisibility. Once a message or picture is ‘snapped,’ it instantly evaporates into cyberspace—supposedly never to be seen again. The idealistic illusion that those messages are gone once they are sent is a naïve notion that often gets teens into major hot water. While, yes, those snaps aren’t saved on the sender’s end, they can be saved and shared by other users. In fact, DMR reports that one million “Snapchat stories have been shared publicly.”

The Invisible Dangers of the App

If parents do not have Snapchat on their list of apps to investigate, they should. Not only is Snapchat widely used—Business Insider recently reported that it is THE most popular app among teens–but it’s also widely abused by teens. While sharing a funny selfie seems harmless, teens are taking the pictures to an x-rated and inappropriate level. Snapchat is often used for sexting. And it is the app’s invisibility cloak that lures teens to think those revealing pictures harmlessly disappear.

Snaps can be screen-grabbed by any user. They also can be shared and sent along in other ways. While the content disappears to the user, what happens after the picture or chat is sent is a mystery. Sexting and inappropriate photos via the app is so problematic that Snapchat addresses the issue via its Community Guidelines stating: “Never post or send any nude or sexual content involving people under the age of 18 — even yourself” and “This includes adding drawings or captions to a Snap to make it sexual — even as a joke.” The site also warns about the possibility that users may take screenshots of snaps or chat content…and Snapchat as a company doesn’t prohibit users from taking screenshots, although they do try to warn senders if a screenshot has been detected.

Pornography and sexting aren’t the only problems with Snapchat in which parents need to be aware. There are also Snapchat challenges or stunts that users like to chronicle for friends. In an attempt to gain notoriety, one user attempted to jump off a mall railing to land on a nearby ledge. The teen died from the stunt.

Is it Safe for Younger Kids and Teens?

If your teen has a phone, they likely have Snapchat. The Terms of Service for Snapchat requires that teens be at least 13 years of age for an account. However, that doesn’t mean that all 13 year-olds should have the app.

Parents should know what apps their kids use, and parents need to set the guidelines for safety. Before allowing teens to download Snapchat, discuss and clarify any and all expectations and responsibilities. Educate teens that no photo or chat is really invisible. On the internet, it’s safe to assume that every piece of information is forever. To think otherwise is dangerous.

Determining what age a teen should use Snapchat also depends on maturity. The app shouldn’t be used by anyone under 13, and parents must respect the TOS…they exist for a reason. But an immature 14-year-old who has a streak of impulsivity absolutely shouldn’t use the app. Good judgment on Snapchat is a must!

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Can Parents Monitor Snapchat?

Parents can monitor whether or not their child uses SnapChat through the TeenSafe app, but other than that there is no way to view what your child sends. Parents also should get on the app as a user. See how the app works, and send a few chats to friends.

After parents have tested out the app for themselves, they need to talk to kids about how they are to conduct themselves on the app. Again, parents must be diligent in explaining the types of photos and content that cannot be sent via Snapchat.

The point that every parent must help teens understand is that Snapchats are not gone for good once they are sent…no app can really make that promise.

Key Safety Tips

Not all teens will abuse Snapchat, and some may even receive snaps and chats that make them uncomfortable. Instruct kids to tell parents or another adult if they receive an image or message that makes them uncomfortable. It’s always ok to tell.

Teens also should report bullying or other harassing messages to parents. However, parents also shuld empower teens to contact Snapchat directly. Victimizing content must always be reported to the provider, and it’s how Snapchat can help keep all users safe.

While Snapchat is the most popular social app for teens, the app isn’t for everyone. The allure of disappearing messages lulls users into a false sense of security to snap and chat messages that perhaps they normally would not send. In the cyber world, however, nothing is really gone for good. Teach teens to Snapchat intelligently, so that those phantom pictures don’t haunt them in the future.

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