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Social media is everywhere, with new apps launching all the time. It can be overwhelming, particularly if you’re trying to protect your children online and wondering if Snapchat is safe for kids. In this article, you’ll learn about the app’s most commonly used features, the potential Snapchat dangers of using those features, and tips for keeping your children safe when using Snapchat, including using an all-encompassing cybersecurity app.
Snapchat is a popular mobile messaging app that lets you send “snaps” (short text, photo, or video messages) that disappear soon after being viewed. The fleeting nature of snaps is part of the appeal for teens on Snapchat — it allows for casual conversation without leaving a log of everything that was said.
Snapchat has undergone major changes to compete with other social apps, adding original series and new features like Our Stories, where many people can all contribute to a collective story. This updated Snapchat parent guide will help you keep up with all the changes.
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Some Snapchat features may concern parents, like the Snap Map, where people can share their location. Snapchat’s focus on impermanence may lead your child to feel safer sending private content, unaware that inappropriate Snapchat pictures and other content can still be screenshotted by the recipient, saved, and shared on public social sites.
Another concern is the lack of age verification when setting up an account. A child under 13 can easily lie about their age to sign up and join older teens on Snapchat. Snapchat once offered a separate service for users under 13 called Snapchat for Kids, but that has since been discontinued. Snapchat is just one of many things parents have to consider when keeping their family safe online or figuring out how much screen time is too much for kids.
Snapchat is constantly evolving its product and releasing new features. Many of Snapchat’s latest features are fun and harmless, but there are still potential dangers to keep in mind.
Snap Map lets people share their geolocation on a real map that can be used to find them. While this is useful when meeting friends, the location you’re sharing is very specific — including even the building you’re in.
Since this location can be shared as a Story, it can go beyond just friends, which can expose kids and teenagers to inappropriate Snapchat users.
Beyond using safety measures like parental control apps and Snapchat’s user settings, parents should discuss Snap Map with their kids and teach them to be careful about sharing their location online.
Snapchat Discover connects your kids with pop culture so they can keep up with celebrities, entertainment, and news. There are three kinds of Discover content:
Snapchat users attending an event can submit their snaps to Our Stories. These snaps are reviewed and curated by the Snapchat team, then published to the world, giving the inside scoop of events from multiple perspectives. The Story format was such a good idea it was copied (by their own admission) by Instagram.
Publisher Stories let brands and websites advertise on Snapchat — promoting a new product launch, guiding users to articles, sharing news, and putting the brand in direct communication with its audience.
Snap Originals are professional series produced exclusively for Snapchat that consist of multiple episodes organized into seasons. The episodes are about five minutes long and are made to be watched vertically on your phone.
These series range across genres and some even feature celebrities like Kevin Hart, Will Smith, and Ryan Reynolds.
The Spotlight feature is Snapchat’s answer to TikTok. People can post vertical video content with sound, using Snapchat features like filters, and assign it a topic hashtag. The post lasts for 24 hours, and the more interactions it gets, the more people see it.
Sharing content globally may sound troubling, the person’s name isn’t attached to the content if they’re under 18 (assuming they signed up with their correct birthdate).
Snapchat Stories give users an opportunity to create in-depth contributions, telling a story through compilations of photos, text, and videos. These stories can be made public or shared just with friends on Snapchat, and they can be viewed multiple times until they disappear 24 hours later.
Your Snapstreak is the number of days in a row you’ve snapped with your friend. Once you’ve started a Snapstreak, your conversation gets a flame emoji and a number for the amount of days the streak has lasted (visible only to the people in the conversation).
Snapstreaks have successfully gamified conversations on Snapchat, using a bit of social engineering to keep users engaged. Snapstreaks were even mentioned in an academic paper discussing addiction, with researchers noting that some users even give their friends their account information to keep a streak going if they can’t send the message.
With Snapchat’s Chat feature, people can chat directly with each other like they would with Facebook Messenger and other messaging apps. Beyond sending text messages, people can start a video chat, share a snap, play games, send photos, send a Bitmoji — a customizable avatar — and even send money.
If you’ve heard about Snapchat, you’ve probably heard about its enormous amount of filters and lenses.
A Snapchat filter is a layer over a photo that adds different colorations, messages, and images (sunglasses, hats, horns) on top of the original. There are loads of filters to choose from, and you can even create your own. The filter is applied after you’ve created your snap.
Or you can use a Snapchat lens before taking the snap. Snapchat lenses use Augmented Reality (AR) to add backgrounds or items to your image or video, sometimes even transforming the subject. Popular Snapchat lenses include those that age the user, turn them into animals, and more.
These features are a big part of what’s made Snapchat so popular. Lenses and Snapchat filters for kids, like FunCam Kids, create a safe environment for kids to play with AR selfies.
Snap tokens are a sort of in-app currency used for microtransactions in Snapchat games. You can purchase these tokens from Snapchat and spend them in certain Snapchat games — another way for Snapchat to monetize its user base.
Snapchat has both single-player games and multiplayer games to play with friends. Your kids can challenge their friends to anything from Scrabble-like word games to shooters similar to Fortnite. Other popular games on Snapchat include tennis, golf, and zombies, to name a few. Snapchat launches multiplayer games directly from chats, meaning that gamers can begin playing at any time, without the need of scheduling.
Cameos is a new feature for Snapchat which lets your child add their face to a short video clip. Snapchat offers a multitude of clips to choose from and regularly adds more. This video can then be used in a snap — multi-friend cameos are also available.
Age 13 is the minimum age to sign up for Snapchat. This Snapchat age requirement is lower than the minimum age of apps like Instagram, which require users to be 16+. There’s a higher Snapchat age requirement of 18 to use certain features, like payments or attaching one’s name to a global Spotlight video.
Unfortunately, it’s simple for kids to lie about their age to create a profile, because there is no age verification process when creating a Snapchat account. Does this mean that Snapchat is safe for 13 year olds? Not necessarily. What it means is that companies can’t legally collect data about users under the age of 13, according to the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Rule in the US.
The question about Snapchat appropriateness for your child comes down to your personal opinion and preferences.
Even parents who trust their children completely want to make sure they’re safe, whether it’s finding the safest phone for their kids, the best privacy and security app, or protecting kids from the dangers of social media.
For parents who want their kids to be able to use Snapchat with parental oversight, you’ll find a few Snapchat parental controls through the privacy settings. You can monitor your child’s Snapchat activity through the Settings with the following quick changes.
Here’s how to make sure no one but your child’s friends can contact them:
Open up the Settings (marked with the gear icon).
Under Contact Me and View My Story, select My Friends instead of Everyone.
Quick Add is a setting that offers up Snapchat users as recommended friends. Here’s how to make sure no other user sees a recommendation to “friend” your child:
Tap See Me in Quick Add.
Toggle the switch off.
Here’s how to make sure no one (not even friends) can see your child’s location:
Tap See My Location.
Toggle on Ghost Mode.
Here’s how to make sure one can use your child’s phone number to find their profile:
Tap Mobile Number.
Untoggle the Let others find me using my mobile number option.
You can also regulate what your kids are doing beyond Snapchat. See our guides to learn how to configure your child’s devices for increased safety:
These parental controls are a good first step, but for more robust protection, get specialized cybersecurity software, which offers a lot more functionality.
Avast One is an all-in-one protection solution. In addition to protecting your devices from all types of malware, data breaches, and threats like browser hijacking, Avast One comes with a full suite of privacy features, like a built-in VPN.
Establish healthy and open communication about internet safety with your child. Talk to your child about any Snapchat concerns you have, as well as broader concerns about social media and the internet.
Discuss the Snapchat safety measures you’d like them to follow and explain why those measures are important. Let them know what things you believe are inappropriate to share, view, and talk about on the app.
Social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s how younger generations (and many older folks) stay in touch and talk with friends. So it’s important to make sure your child knows how to stay safe on social media.
Snapchat is a fun app when used safely. It might even become an entertaining new way for you and your child to communicate. Just make sure they’re using it responsibly.
Dedicated cybersecurity apps offer much stronger protections than out-of-the-box settings in individual apps. With a dedicated cybersecurity app, the risks associated with Snapchat and other online activities can be minimized.
Avast One comes packed with comprehensive security and privacy features and a suite of customizable controls. Get Avast One today and keep your kids safe as they explore the online world.