For an app that is only 2 years old, Snapchat is already wildly popular. 18.6% of all U.S. iPhone users have Snapchat on their phones. It’s especially popular with young adults and teens. If your child has or is interested in having a Snapchat account of their own, here is what you need to know.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a mobile app for iOS and Android that allows users to take pictures and send them to friends. After a few seconds, the photos are deleted. There are ways to capture or recover a deleted Snapchat image, though, so it’s important for your young user to understand that the photo isn’t necessarily gone for good.
Important Safety Points for Parents
Just like other social media platforms and apps, teens can use Snapchat in a fun and safe way. These points will help:
- Snapchat requires parental consent for all users 13-17, and has a different service called SnapKidz for users under 13.
- You pick a username; don’t use your name or identifying details since anyone can see it.
- You have a “my friends” list on Snapchat. You can only send pictures to people on your friends list, but this is not a two-way relationship. People who are not your friends can still send you messages unless you specify otherwise.
- By default, anyone with your username can send you a message. You can manually change it to accept messages from only people on your friends list, which is the best thing to do for most teens.
- You can block anyone from sending you messages that you don’t like.
- Even though the pictures are supposed to be deleted after a few seconds, assume that anything you post may be permanent. Silly pictures are okay, but not sexts or other photos you would never want to be made public.
The appeal of a photo sharing service that automatically deletes your photos may be lost on most parents, who haven’t grown up with social media. Your kids may actually be feeling pressure to curate a self-image on Facebook with their photos, and they like Snapchat because it lets them be frivolous or goofy.
That might be an interesting topic to discuss over dinner: do your kids ever feel pressure to present themselves in a certain way on social media?
Tim Woda is a passionate advocate for protecting children from today’s scariest digital dangers – cyberbullying, sexting and online predators. He is the co-founder of uKnow.com, developers of uKnowKids.