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Ask Titania

Is Snapchat Really That Bad?

Titania Jordan  |  March 18, 2024

Dear Titania,

My son is 13, and we’re starting to explore social media (very, very slowly). He’s quiet, shy, and definitely not a kid I’ll need to worry about a lot of things with — he mainly plays computer games and hangs out with his friends at home. I know Snapchat is notorious for sending nudes and explicit images, but that seems less of a concern right now for us. Am I missing something else? Is Snapchat more dangerous than I’m suspecting?


Suspicious of Snapchat But Not Certain

Dear Suspicious of Snapchat But Not Certain,

Oh Snapchat, Snapchat…how I strongly dislike you! Let me count the ways — in fact, I have 6 additional reasons I’ll get to in a bit. But first, let me say: I hear you. Boy, do I hear you. 

As a parent, I know firsthand the siren pull of Snapchat. Teens have been using it for coming up on 14 years now, and I have hoped against hope that the fervor for it would die down a bit. Unfortunately, it hasn’t. To keep teens hooked on the platform, Snapchat has relied on a combination of social inertia and an ever-expanding array of new features they roll out every year. But before we get into those, let’s take a quick detour in NMK syndrome, or “not my kid syndrome.”

Good Kids Can Make Poor Choices

"Not my kid syndrome" refers to a mindset where parents think their kid is immune to risks or behaviors because they trust them. It’s especially dangerous when it comes to online threats, as it means that parents believe their child won't engage in risky behavior or encounter dangers on platforms like Snapchat because they're responsible or savvy enough to avoid them. The truth is, you never really know. Peer pressure, curiosity, and even accidents can happen at any time. It’s not a reflection of the kid, but more just the world we live in. And even if your kid actually IS perfect, other people in the world definitely aren’t. And that’s reason enough to be very, very wary of Snapchat.

Let’s Talk the Top 6 Dangers Besides Nudes

1. Snap Map

With the Snap Map, your child can share their Snapchat stories publicly and see those of complete strangers on a real-time map, which is maybe the biggest red flag, in my opinion. They can also broadcast their real-time location to anyone they are connected to on this platform, but keep in mind that not every “friend” is one they know in real life — it’s incredibly common for kids to add “mutuals,” which are friends of friends. Sometimes, it’s an actual kid, but it could also be a complete stranger. 

2. Drugs and drug dealers

This is one that many parents don’t know about, but it’s extremely concerning. There are documented cases of known drug dealers reaching out to kids on Snapchat and delivering drugs as quickly and easily as a pizza. Recently, one particularly tragic case resulted in the death of Sammy Chapman, as the drugs were laced with fentanyl. The Drug Enforcement Agency has even issued a report on what a growing threat drug dealing is on the platform is. It's a terrifying reality that shows how important it is to be vigilant about what our kids are doing online.

3. Nonstop friend drama and FOMO

Bullying is unfortunately pretty widespread on Snapchat, and the Snap Map just adds to the stress. Imagine seeing your friends all hanging out together on that map, having a blast, and you're sitting at home, feeling left out. It's like FOMO on steroids! And let's face it, that fear of missing out can really mess with a kid's head. It's not just about feeling excluded — it's about feeling like you're not good enough or that you're somehow less popular or important. And that can take a toll on a child's mental and emotional well-being.

4. My AI

Did you know there’s a new chatbot that Snap rolled out to our kids without telling parents (or giving them the ability to turn it off)? Yep! It’s called My AI, and it can lead them astray quickly. While Snapchat promotes the feature by suggesting to ask about fun things like finding dinner recipes and planning hiking trips, kids may use MyAI for different reasons. A tech columnist at the Washington Post experimented with the chatbot and found that he could get it to discuss:

  • Ways to lose one’s virginity
  • Types of alcohol
  • How to cover the smell of alcohol

5. Inappropriate content

Apart from the risky business of sending and receiving nudes, there's a whole other world of content on Snapchat that's not exactly kid-friendly. Snapchat itself is home to loads of stuff that is wildly inappropriate. The Discover page leads users down rabbit holes of adult content, and integrations with entities like HBO let kids watch shows that definitely aren’t rated G. It's like giving your kid a remote control and hoping they'll only land on the Disney Channel. A few years ago, HBO was even streaming episodes of Euphoria, a show that’s about teens but is definitely not for teens.

6. My Eyes Only

There’s literally a vault app built into Snapchat. What’s a vault app, you ask? It’s a place where  kids can store photos, files, and sometimes even other apps locked behind a passcode. So even if you knew your child’s Snapchat password, unless you also know their My Eyes Only passcode, there’d still be things you couldn’t see. I’m not saying that every kid would be hiding something, of course, but the fact that Snapchat encourages this level of secrecy is definitely one of many red flags.

How Bark Can Help

Snapchat, surprise surprise, doesn’t work with parents to make monitoring children’s accounts easy, and their built-in parental controls are a joke — kids can literally turn them off at any point, so really, what’s the point?

But Bark can definitely help families keep their kids safer on the app. On Androids and our Bark Phone, Bark can monitor text chats, My AI chats, and searches. The app doesn’t let anybody monitor photos, unfortunately. But photos are rarely sent in a vacuum, so getting alerts for the surrounding message is even more important. 

On top of monitoring for dangers, Bark can also help in extra ways. For example, you can choose to block Snapchat entirely, or only allow it a few minutes a day (like in the living room, supervised) if you choose to go that route. 

We can also let you know if your child opens a Snapchat account with their personal email — even if they do it on a friend’s phone when they’re at a sleepover. Now that’s peace of mind. 

I hope all of this information helps you decide to push off the Snapchat discussion for a few more years. Your son will be fine without it, I promise.

Good luck!

Bark helps families manage and protect their children’s digital lives.

mother and daughter discussing Bark Parental Controls