What is Snapchat and What Parents Should Know

Anne Livingston on Nov 22, 2015

What is Snapchat?

What is Snapchat and is it safe for kids?

Pew Research Center ranked Snapchat as the #3 social media app for teens just behind Facebook and Instagram. Snapchat is certainly one of the top apps at our high school. As with most popular apps, it is trickling down to the middle school. Teens love Snapchat because it allows them to send photos, videos and messages to friends that disappear. No public feed. No digital trail. However, leaving no trail means parents are left not knowing what their child has sent or seen in Snapchat.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users take and send photos or videos to their friends that self-destruct. After taking a snap, the sender decides how long their friend can view the photo or watch the video, with a maximum viewing time of 10 seconds. When time is up, the content vanishes.

When Snapchat first launched, many articles labeled it as the new sexting app. A self-destructing photo seemed the perfect way for teens (and adults) to send a naughty picture without worrying about the photo being splashed all over the internet. Thankfully, most teens did not download Snapchat in order to send a sext.

Teens primarily use Snapchat to share pictures and videos that are silly or funny. Unlike Instagram, where pictures are carefully chosen to generate likes, Snapchat has no likes or comments. Teens can add colorful drawings and text to their snaps. In the latest update, teens can use lenses to distort their selfies to add huge eyes or rainbows. Snapchat is for sharing a goofy moment with friends that quickly disappears.

Where teens are running into trouble is that snaps do not always disappear. It is easy for friends to capture these images with a screenshot or by taking a picture of the screen. Saved snaps pop up all the time on other social networks like Instagram or Twitter as well as being forwarded to other friends.

Sexting on Snapchat

Why teens love Snapchat and parents do not?
Why are parents worried about Snapchat?

While parents hope their teen is not sending inappropriate snaps, it is hard to know what they are sending. Parents cannot easily check up on their kid’s activity within Snapchat. Snapchat does not have a public feed. It does not save photos or store them on the phone. Even if a parent logs in as their teen, all they will see is a list of snaps and who sent them but not the actual picture or video.

How can parents view a teen’s snaps?

The short answer is not easily. Searching for “Snapchat Spy,” I found some software packages that claim parents can see their child’s Snapchat activity. Some of these require a parent to jailbreak or root their child’s phone. This is risky since it will void the warranty and may harm the phone.

Even with a robust monitoring system like Familoop Safeguard, there are limits to what information it can collect. Familoop Safeguard cannot see every snap a teen sends or receives. However, if a teen takes a screenshot of a snap that picture does appear in the gallery or camera roll. When this happens, parents can see the photo. Familoop Safeguard collects all photos from the camera roll, even ones that a child deletes, and stores them for parents to review.

Talking with Kids and Teens about Snapchat

Given how challenging it is for parents to check in on their child’s Snapchat use, this should not be a kid’s first social network. Families should choose a network that allows some oversight and the ability for parents to coach their child. Snapchat is an app best reserved for teens that have already shown they are responsible online.

If your teen wants to download Snapchat, parents should talk about the risks of using this app. While teens can escape the pressure of chasing likes, they cannot escape the screenshot. All the same rules about inappropriate photos and messages apply to Snapchat.

Teens should also be thoughtful on who they share snaps with. Anyone who receives his or her snap can take a screenshot. Whether a message or picture is a fleeting moment or a recorded image is up to the recipient. In the end, the only way these photos truly disappear is if there is a good friend at the other end.

Although most teens are not using Snapchat to sext, parents should still talk to their teen about the risks of sexting. Sexting is the sharing, creating and forwarding of sexually suggestive texts or nearly nude or nude images. If a teen is under 18, these pictures are child pornography. Consequently, the taking and/or sharing these images is illegal.

Teens need to understand there is simply no such thing as safe sexting. Once a picture is sent, it is out of their control. Sometimes these pictures do end up being shared or posted online. It is better not to send a picture like this to anyone and teens should never ask someone to send a sexually suggestive text or picture. As Snapchat’s own policy wisely states, “Don’t send messages that you wouldn’t want someone to save or share.”

Snapchat parental control

If your teen is on Snapchat, Familoop Safeguard does review the gallery or camera roll on their phone.

Although Familoop Safeguard cannot show parents every snap a teen sends or receives, it can help parents manage Snapchat. If your child is not ready for Snapchat, parents can choose to block Snapchat until they are older. If your teen is on Snapchat, Familoop Safeguard does collect and save all the pictures from their phone's camera roll. If they take a screenshot or save an inappropriate snap, parents can see it and talk to their teen about these photos.

Additionally, Familoop Safeguard is the perfect partner for parents trying to get a clue of their children' digital activity and keep them protected from harmful outside stuff available with phones and Internet. We have developed dozens of features to make it easier for you to keep your children' digital experience safe, fun, and productive. With respect to Snapchat, Familoop Safeguard will let you know what mobile apps your child has on their phone and how often every app is used.

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