Your nephew has it. Your son’s girlfriend has it. Your best friend from high school’s daughter has it. Even your children have it. It seems that every teen in the universe is using the social media platform called SnapChat.
And that’s about right. SnapChat is one of the fastest growing social media platforms of all time, and is only getting bigger. Teens from across the world are abandoning Facebook and Twitter to join the fast growing ghost (SnapChat Mascot) in the world. What is SnapChat, and how can you as a parent keep your children safe?
What is SnapChat?
According to Webwise, Snapchat is a mobile messaging application used to share photos, videos, text, and drawings. It’s free to download the app and free to send messages using it. It has become hugely popular in a very short space of time, especially with young people.
Verizon Wireless, in their SnapChat 101 Guide, sums it up best:
Snapchat, which has become hugely popular, lets you share images or video clips to your friends. But there’s a twist: They can only be viewed for a matter of seconds.
Verizon Wireless’s guide can be found here: Snapchat 101: What it is and How to Use It.
Verizon’s guide is a great resource for beginner SnapChat users and for parents who want to learn more.
When SnapChat first launched in 2011, it had a reputation of being a “sexting” app for high school teens. Much of that reputation was unfounded. In 2016, SnapChat is a messaging service, photo archiving service, and trusted news source for teens as many reputable news agencies are using the app.
Common Parent Questions About SnapChat
Here are some common questions about SnapChat from parents compiled by ConnectSafely.org:
New Features: Stories and Memories
A couple of years ago, SnapChat’s main feature, besides its Instagram like filters, was the ability to message friends pictures and videos that quickly vanished after viewing them. Recently, SnapChat has released two new features that are making the app even more popular.
Webtrends.com defines a “Snapchat Story” as a photo or video you post to your very own stories section (or feed) of your account, which is visible by you and all your friends. So while in the past you could only message your friends individually your selfies, now you can post pics and videos that can be seen by all your friends all at once. Many companies are using this feature to promote their brand and products. You can subscribe to them in the story section on SnapChat.
Here is commercial video clip by SnapChat discussing the new Story feature:
Just released a couple of weeks ago, “Memories” is a new feature that allows users to save pictures and videos to SnapChat’s archive to be able to retrieve them at anytime. Almost like the photo section on your iPhone. Users who archive their pictures and videos can put them into albums, and edit them with filters and text at anytime. Essentially, it’s SnapChat without your images vanishing after viewing them.
Here is a commercial video clip put together by SnapChat explaining Memories:
That commercial is not too encouraging for letting your children use the app. However, with more and more features and filters being added, SnapChat is setting itself up to directly compete with Facebook and Twitter for eyeballs. More than likely your teen is on SnapChat, is really wants to be.
How to be Safe on SnapChat
- Check Your Settings – the first thing you need to do when you or your children setup a SnapChat account is to view your settings. The most important setting is who can view your snaps. It’s a good idea to only accept incoming pictures and videos from your trusted friends. In the settings menu, make sure to change the “Send Me Snaps” field to “My Friends”. Now you are safer from unwanted users or child predators.
- Keep You Password Safe – just like with any online account, don’t share your passwords with anyone. Keep your account safe from unwanted users. It’s not even a good idea to share your password with your best friend. You never know what is going to happen. And never let anyone share your account. Do not be responsible for a friend’s lapse in judgement.
- Be Careful What You Send and Receive – even though “Snaps” vanish after viewing, people can still take a screenshot of your picture or video. ShapChat tries to notify you when someone saves or screenshots your images, but that is not always 100% reliable. To be careful, never send anything through SnapChat that you would not want your mother seeing. Parents, please remind your children that anything posted to the internet never truly goes away.
- Is Sexting Real – sexting is something that is very real, but research shows that most teens are not “sexting” on SnapChat. The same thing applies as the last tip. Never put something on the internet you wouldn’t want your mother seeing. And remember, nude pictures of minors is a federal offense that can result in jail time. It is not worth it.
- Block a User – if things get out of hand with one of your friends and you are feeling uncomfortable, there is a way to block a user on SnapChat. This option is available from your friend list. You have the choice of blocking someone or deleting them as a friend.
- You Can Always Delete Your Account – If you or your child feels uncomfortable, delete the account. Better yet, parents should always monitor their children’s online activity and delete the account for them. Better safe than sorry.
SnapChat has even setup a safety center to help you be safe on its platform. Here is a video about “Safety Center”:
SnapChat is not evil. Everyone just needs to be careful on the platform. Many companies and organizations are creating accounts. In the future you should see CFBISD joining SnapChat. We plan to launch in August. Hope everyone enjoys our snaps of all the great things happening in CFBISD.
Do you have questions about SnapChat or other social media platforms? Leave your questions in the comment section below.
written by Jason Wheeler