Snapchat is an incredibly popular instant messaging app where users share pictures and videos (with the ability to apply filters or other decorative, stylish effects) in messages that’re typically meant to disappear a short time after being viewed. Time limits for “snaps” can be from 1-10 seconds or no limit can be submitted, and they cannot be opened again on the app after viewing them. Similar to Facebook and Instagram, “stories” disappear after 24 hours. While the app is free, there is a premium subscription plan called Snapchat+. According to a 2022 Statista report, Snapchat has 363 million daily active users and it’s the most important social network for U.S. teens—nearly half of Snapchat users are between 15 and 25 years old.
While the feature of disappearing messages is a big reason contributing to Snapchat’s popularity, nothing is truly temporary because there are ways users can still save images. Once something is sent, it’s a click away from potentially being public and permanent.
- People can take a screenshot of a snap with their phone, which will notify the user who sent it.
- If someone uses a third-party app to screen capture what they’re viewing on their phone, Snapchat is not able to send a notification to let the user know it happened.
Snap Map allows users to share their location with contacts nearby in real time.
- Kids can add friends, friends of friends, people they meet online, or anyone can automatically add themselves if the child shares their snapcode—potentially exposing their location to complete strangers.
- Snapchat+ costs $3.99 and users can use Friend Ghost Trails which allows users to see where friends have been over the past 24 hours, not just current location.
Anyone with someone’s username can send unwanted messages.
- Users frequently receive messages from automated bots.
The Discover section contains content created by celebrities, entertainment sources, and news.
- Advertisements and inappropriate content are easily accessible.
- Snapchat attempts to filter out adult content for underage users, but it relies on youth using their correct date of birth. Users can change their birthdate one time after creating their account.
It can be helpful for parents to download Snapchat and learn how to use it before deciding whether it’s appropriate for their children. Be prepared to have conversations about the potential risks to privacy and safety. Parents can link their account to their children’s through the app’s Family Center. To turn off Snap Map, parents can enable Ghost Mode on the app. Currently, no monitoring services can scan Snapchat messages on iOS devices, and Androids can only monitor text monitor. Considering Snapchat’s growing popularity among teenagers, it’s important to be careful about how much time they’re spending on the app. Youth should pay attention to how using the app makes them feel and take a break if they start to get stressed or negatively impacted. A beneficial resource is our Customizable Digital Media Contract, which families can use to develop a device contract together. Including children in the process of establishing safe, appropriate boundaries will increase the likelihood they will follow those expectations.
Want To Learn More?
For more information about Snapchat, check out Common Sense Media’s Parent’s Ultimate Guide to Snapchat from Common Sense Media. You can also check out this FamilyZone article discussing a way a new app called Hoop uses Snapchat to connect your child with other strangers, dubbing it the “Tinder for teens” app.