Find out more info about the snap-happy app to help you make up your mind…
Social media is an integral part of our lives these days but, like most parents, you probably have some reservations or concerns about particular apps – especially when it comes to the safety of our children. In an online world where #BeKind trends on a regular basis, it’s sad to see that cyberbullying, catfishing and online predators remain a serious issue. So, when your young teen asks if they can join Snapchat, your first question is probably, “Is it safe?”. Let’s take a look at the app’s features, as well as the pros and cons, to help you make up your mind…
SNAPCHAT FAST FACTS
Age Restrictions: 13 and up. Users are asked to put in their date of birth to gain access to the app.
PROS: Snapchat’s minimum age requirement is in line with COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) and will reject anyone under the age of 13.
CONS: Snapchat does not verify if the D.O.B entered is correct, so it is possible for those under 13 to join with a fake age. That’s why many kids under the age of 13 are using the app with or without their parents’ knowledge. It’s up to parents to monitor this.
Main Features: Socialising with friends. Snapchat allows users to take a photo or short video, add fun filters, and send it directly to their friends, add it to their story, or save to memories. You can also message through the app in text format. Images and text disappear after a time, but the user can screenshot the chat. However, screenshotting will send a notification to alert the individual or group members within the chat.
PROS: The beauty of Snapchat is that it lives in the moment – images and text are fast and fleeting and don’t linger in a feed where they’re displayed permanently. This removes the pressure of ‘fishing for likes’ and those with malicious intent cannot dig through old posts at a later date to leave nasty comments.
CONS: Disappearing chats can make it much more difficult to keep or gather evidence of any cyberbullying or inappropriate behaviour. You can, however, use another phone to take a photo of the screen to avoid alerting others in the chat. Of course, the downside of this is that whatever your child puts out on Snapchat can also be photographed and shared without their knowledge.
Side Features: Video calling and Snapstreaks. Like most social apps, Snapchat allows users to video call. There are also quizzes and games, plus celebrity news and stories, much like TikTok. Streaks is basically sending snaps between two users, at least once every 24 hours for three days to build up a ‘streak’. It’s basically a record of how many days a user has spent interacting with a friend.
PROS: Snapstreaks is a massively popular feature within the app, especially with younger teens. It’s a fun way to show friendliness and to interact with friends.
CONS: While most of the time it is harmless fun, Snapstreaks can become stressful and even addictive. Users can feel under pressure from friends to ‘keep up’ a streak and it ceases to be fun.
Adding Friends: To add a friend, users must know the other person’s username.
PROS: Having to know someone’s username means it’s less likely your teen will befriend a stranger.
CONS: It’s still possible for someone to add your teen as a friend via ‘Quick Add’. Remind your teen that they should never add anyone who they haven’t met in real life (IRL). You can remove this option in the ‘Who Can’ section in ‘Settings’. This means that other users will have to request your child’s user handle, rather than find it in a list of suggested friends.
Privacy: As with most apps, the user can set different privacy parameters. Snapchat also has a unique Snap Map function – a real-time map that shows your location to your Snapchat friends.
PROS: Snap Map allows you to see where your teen is if you have them as a friend on Snap Chat.
CONS: Snap Map also allows your teen’s entire friend list to see exactly where they are. This could be a safety issue if your teen is friends with anyone who they don’t actually know. You can opt to put your teen’s account in Ghost Mode which will disable their visible location. Alternatively, you can sit with your teen and choose only a specific handful of friends who are able to see their location. You can make these changes in ‘See My Location’.
TO JOIN OR NOT TO JOIN?
Ultimately, it’s up to you to weigh up the pros and cons before making your decision. Some parents find it reassuring to set up the account with their child, to make sure security and privacy settings are in place. It can really put your mind at ease to know that their account is as safe as it can be.
TOP TIP: Make sure you go into the gear icon and select ‘My Friends’ instead of ‘Everyone’ to set who can contact your teen or view their content.
ONLINE SAFETY REFRESH
If you’re happy to let your teen join Snapchat, have a talk about the importance of online safety, refresh their mind on how to protect themselves and remind them to always be kind online. Your teen can read our How Can I Stay Safe Online? as well as Is Snapchat Safe? to get more info.