Is Snapchat a suitable platform for children? What purposes does Snapchat serve? Kids gravitate towards Snapchat to stay connected with their friends, express themselves creatively, and stay updated on the latest happenings with their favorite celebrities and brands. However, when it comes to the safety of kids on Snapchat, there are concerns. Social media platforms, including Snapchat, have the potential to expose children to inappropriate content and potential risks. Additionally, these apps are constantly evolving, and just when you feel you understand how they work, a new update can render your knowledge outdated overnight. In this article, we explore some of the recent changes to Snapchat, shedding light on both the positive aspects and potential risks, aiming to provide parents with valuable insights.

Exploring Snapchat: A Brief Overview

Snapchat, introduced in 2011, is a notable photo-sharing and messaging application. Its claim to fame lies in pioneering the trend of “disappearing messages,” which continues to be a prominent feature. Boasting 293 million daily users as of July 2021, Snapchat remains a thriving social media platform, particularly popular among the younger demographic. Given its extensive user base, parents may naturally wonder: “Is Snapchat a secure platform for children?”

Understanding Snapchat’s Purpose

To assess the safety of Snapchat for kids, it’s crucial to first comprehend its primary use. Snapchat distinguishes itself as a spontaneous messaging platform, deviating from the structured “tagged photo” norms observed on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram. The unique feature of Snapchat lies in the ephemeral nature of messages, which vanish shortly after being viewed, although screenshots remain an option. Due to this fleeting characteristic, Snapchat has gained notoriety as the preferred app for sending nudes among the younger demographic.

Ensuring Safety on Snapchat for Kids

A notable allure of Snapchat lies in the temporary nature of messages; individual Snaps vanish instantly after being viewed, and Stories disappear within 24 hours. This evokes a sense of liberation for users, who may perceive their posts as impermanent, potentially leading to the misuse of features. The belief that one can share content without consequences, especially of a hurtful or sexual nature, is prevalent. However, it’s crucial to recognize that the fleeting nature of content doesn’t guarantee immunity, as a swift screenshot or recording can turn the tables. The question then arises: Is Snapchat genuinely safe for kids? Many parents harbor reservations, given the array of features that not only expose children to inappropriate content but also raise concerns about their privacy and safety.

Understanding Snapchat’s Family Center

Family Center serves as Snapchat’s in-house parental control system, providing parents with tools to oversee their child’s Snapchat activity. By linking your account to your child’s, you gain the ability to:

  • Monitor your child’s recent Snaps and chats from the past week.
  • Restrict sensitive content in Stories and Spotlight.
  • Access a list of all their friends.

However, two significant challenges exist with Family Center. Firstly, your child must consent to your supervision, and they retain the authority to disable it unilaterally. Secondly, you won’t have visibility into the actual content or photos your child views.

Setting Up Family Center: A Step-by-Step Guide

  1. Download Snapchat and create an account on your phone.
  2. Tap your profile icon in the top left corner of the home screen once set up.
  3. Tap the settings/gear icon in the top right corner.
  4. Scroll down to Privacy Controls and select Family Center.
  5. Send an invitation to your child.
  6. Wait for your child to accept the invitation.
  7. Once accepted, accessing Family Center allows you to view their friends, monitor their chats, and control sensitive content settings if desired.

In a positive move towards enhanced safety, Snapchat introduced additional safeguards for teen users in September 2023. These features encompass in-app warnings about chatting with strangers, stronger protections for adding unknown friends, and the incorporation of in-app safety tips.

Snapchat, beyond its familiar features, harbors a less known facet called the Discover section, housing a diverse range of content from brand promotions and online publications to posts by Snapchat’s notable users. Similar to much of the internet, the content’s visibility in this section hinges on user interaction, making it somewhat of Snapchat’s equivalent to click-bait. Notably, the content that gains prominence often leans towards attention-grabbing topics, prominently featuring sexual content. This raises concerns about the safety of Snapchat for kids, prompting a resounding “NO!” based on available evidence.

To provide a glimpse into this issue, we’ve shared milder screen grabs, but it’s important to note that some content is too explicit for hosting on our platform. Parents should be aware of what their children may encounter, and by clicking on this link, they can get an idea of the content Snapchat is presenting to its users.

Minimizing Exposure to Sexual Content: A Practical Approach

Much like other social media platforms, Snapchat utilizes algorithms to tailor content based on demographics, in-app activity, and external activity. Although Snapchat employs age-gating to restrict content based on the user’s declared birthdate, this solution has its limitations. Altering one’s age on Snapchat is a simple task, and hence, the effectiveness of this safeguard is compromised.

Parents can, however, take a proactive step by verifying and managing their child’s birthdate on the Snapchat account. Making this practice a part of the tech contract with their child adds an extra layer of precaution. Even with these measures in place, the safety of Snapchat for kids hinges on understanding the platform’s use when accessed by younger users.

The Secrecy of “My Eyes Only”: A Hidden Photo Vault

Despite Snapchat’s reputation as a platform for vanishing messages, users have the capability to preserve their Snaps by downloading them, easily retrievable by swiping up from the camera screen and accessing Memories. Within this space lies a feature known as “My Eyes Only,” allowing users to safeguard selected photos with a password.

Unlocking the “My Eyes Only” section necessitates knowledge of a 4-digit PIN. While it may seem like a tool for enhanced privacy in storing pictures, it presents the potential for misuse as a vault for inappropriate content. What makes this feature particularly concerning is that the stored photos need not originate from Snapchat; they can include downloads, screenshots, or images from other sources, all seamlessly uploaded directly from the camera roll.

Snap Map: A Location-Revealing Feature

Snapchat introduces the Snap Map feature, allowing users to track the whereabouts of their friends as they craft their Snaps. While users have some control over how their location is shared, things can escalate when contributing to “Our Story.”

“Our Story” is a feature enabling users to add to a public feed displaying real-time events globally. It facilitates direct communication on the map, even among users who may not know each other personally. This openness poses a potential risk if kids share personal information on “Our Story,” as it becomes visible to the entire community and might end up on the World Snap Map along with the shared personal details. To address this concern, adjusting your children’s location-sharing settings becomes crucial, aligning them with your family’s values.

So, is Snapchat safe? The answer lies in your discretion as a parent when deciding whether to permit your children to use the app. While implementing measures to enhance privacy and online safety can render Snapchat a more secure platform, it’s essential to acknowledge that certain concerns persist.