**Updated June 27, 2017**
Snapchat has been all the rage among teens and young adults for a few years now. However, most parents that I know are in the dark about what this app really can do and how to use it. Since Snapchat continues to gain in popularity and appears to be here to stay, we wanted to put together a simple guide for parents.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a messaging app that allows the user to send short videos or photos to their friends as well as make video and audio calls. These messages are referred to as “snaps.” The novelty of this app is that the snaps “disappear” after being viewed.
Users can send snaps to one or more selected followers and “chat” with them by sending snaps back and forth. Users can also make a snap and add it to their “story” which is a collection of the user’s snaps that play in sequence for all their followers to view.
Snapchat also has a fun feature where you can add “lenses” to your face like dog ears or a crown of flowers. These lenses can change daily as some are sponsored by companies or relate to a current holiday.
Snapchat is not intended for users under the age of 13.
What are the risks with Snapchat?
Snapchat can be a fun way to communicate with friends and family. However, it is worth taking a few minutes to understand the concerns with using this app.
- Some Snapchatters feel more at ease when sending a snap because they know that the snap will not be available for very long. This “comfort” has led many a Snapchatter to snap video and images that are regrettable, not appropriate or even illegal.
- Screenshots and recordings of snaps can be taken by a viewer at any time and saved forever. Snapchat does warn users to be mindful of this, and Snapchatters are notified if a screenshot is taken of their snap. However, this does not prevent the screenshot from being taken. There are ways to get around this Snapchat notification like third party apps and taking a picture with another device.
- Snapchat collects your user information such as phone number, email, birthday, photos (of course), device information, app usage data, and some location information. You can also choose to allow Snapchat to access all the contact information in your phone to more easily find friends with Snapchat accounts.
- The Discover page gives users access to stories posted by all kinds of companies. Some of the content is not be suitable for younger ages, and the app does not allow this feature to be turned off.
- With the recent app update, there are new privacy concerns. Users can now share their location on the “Snap Map” inside the app. Additionally, snaps can be shared on “Our Story” that will allow the actual snaps to show up and be viewed on the Snap Map at the location where the snap was taken.
What settings should I check?
Just like other apps, there are many settings that can be changed to help protect your privacy. Listed below are 7 settings that parents may want to check make their teen’s account more private.
To find these settings:
- Open Snapchat.
- Tap the ghost icon in the top left corner of the screen. This will take you to your profile screen.
- Tap the gear icon in the top right of the screen to get to the settings screen.
My Account > Mobile Number – You can turn on or off “Let others find me using my mobile number” in this section. Turning this on allows other users to find your teen’s username by using their phone number. If you prefer for your teen’s account to be less publicized to others, you can turn this off.
Additional Services > Manage Preferences – Snapchat can use information provided by your device to provide optional filters for snaps that may show the current temperature, the speed you are driving, etc. To turn these off, slide the “Filters” bar to off.
Additional Services > Manage Preferences – If you are watching your mobile data usage (and who isn’t with teenagers), slide the bar to turn on “Travel Mode” to load content on demand.
Who Can… Contact Me – Allowing only “My Friends” to contact your teen on Snapchat is recommended instead of allowing anyone with Snapchat to contact your teen in the app.
Who Can… View My Story –“ My Friends” or even “Custom” is recommended as opposed to giving everyone with Snapchat the ability to see your teen’s story.
Who Can… See Me in Quick Add – This option allows your teen’s username to be listed as a “Quick Add” to other Snapchatters that share a mutual friend with your teen or have added your teen’s number to their phone. If you prefer for your teen’s account to be less publicized to others, you can turn this off.
Who Can… See My Location – This option allows your teen to share their location with friends when the app is open. The default is Ghost Mode, and that is the safest mode. This will keep your teen from sharing their location. **Please note that even if your teen’s app is in Ghost Mode, they can still publicly post a snap to Our Story. Posting to Our Story will allow anyone to view the snap and the location where the snap was taken. It is very important to talk to your teen about this.
Account Actions > Blocked – If there are certain peers that are bothering your teen, you can block them. You can view anyone that is being blocked from this account on this screen.
How do I Use Snapchat?
With this overview of the risks and settings, you should be ready to discuss any concerns with your teen over using this app. Many parents choose to get their own Snapchat account and follow their kid’s account to view their story. Whether you choose to do that or not is up to you.
And if you want to get in on the fun, but are thinking, “How do you even use this app?” – I get it.
When I first installed Snapchat and logged in, I had no idea how it worked. I was tapping icons, swiping up/down/left/right, and still could not figure out how to use the dang thing. I don’t feel that the interface is very intuitive (or maybe I am just old).
If you would like a quick crash course on how to use Snapchat, click below to receive our FREE How to Snap Guide!
Get our free "How to Snap" Guide!
Subscribe to get your free guide delivered to your email.
I hope that you found these tips helpful to guide you and your teen through the minefield that is Snapchat. It can be super fun, but without taking proper precautions, teens can get in a lot of trouble. With Snapchat continually gaining in popularity, it is important for parents to at least know what to look out for when using this app.
If you found this post helpful, you may also like…