Snapchat is a massively popular multimedia messaging app. Available on iOS and Android, Snapchat is so much more than a quirky camera — it's an instant connection to the entire world.
Users can take pictures using countless fun filters and record short video snippets. The original appeal of the app was its disappearing media. Pictures and videos sent to friends would only display for a few seconds and then vanish. The app has undergone many updates since its introduction, and it is now possible to save media received from friends.
Understanding the Lingo
Snapchat has its own dictionary
of app-specific lingo that can read like a foreign language to parents. Here are a few of the most important terms to know:
Snap: This is the colloquial term for a photo or video taken or sent on the app.
Story: When you link several snaps together back-to-back, it creates a story. Stories are publicly visible for 24 hours, after which they disappear. (With recent updates, though, you can save these stories to the private storage area called "Memories").
Snapcode: A scannable code that can be used to quickly add friends to a Snapchat profile.
Snapstreak: This term refers to the length of time that two people have snapped each other consistently for consecutive days.
Geofilter: Like filters, you can use a geofilter to decorate snaps and share your location (popular at large, public events).
Snap Map: With this feature, you can share your location and look around a map to see where other people are located.
Since it's so easy to add friends to the Snapchat app, your child can accumulate a lot of strangers on their friends list. Depending on their user settings, the app can collect a ton of data about their habits and share it with third parties.
It's particularly hard for parents to monitor their children's activity on Snapchat, as there's no feed to scroll through (unlike Facebook or Instagram). So, instead, focus on implementing strong privacy settings. Together with your child, go into the app's settings menu and look for the "Who Can" options. Here, you can control several different privacy functions.
How to access the privacy settings
- Access the settings by tapping your child’s icon in the top left of any screen.
- Click the red Gear icon in the top right corner.
- Look for the Contact Me option under the Who Can heading in your settings.
- Choose between:
- Contact Me
- Send Me Notifications
- View My Story
- See My location
- Save Me in Quick Add
- Select the parameters appropriate for your child.
How to block someone
If someone is harassing your child or is a stranger trying to communicate with them, the best action is to block the user.
- Navigate to the Friends page by tapping the chat bubble on the bottom of any screen.
- Next, at the top of the screen, tap the person icon with a plus sign next to it.
- Here you'll see a list of users that have added your child. You can tap on each name to pull up a list of options — including Ignore and Block.
- If you just want to delete someone’s attempt to add your child, tap Ignore.
- But if you never want that user to be able to contact your child again, tap Block.
The Discover Section
Discover contains media content created by celebrities, entertainment outlets, and random strangers. While many of these content providers are legitimate, you can't truly predict what might pop up. Alcohol ads, offensive language, or nudity could pop up just as easily as the New York Times.
Content is typically promotional in nature and is frequently mature in subject matter.
How to unsubscribe from content on 'Discover'
- Open Snapchat.
- Swipe left.
- Underneath the ‘Friends’ section, find ‘Subscriptions.’
- Click the arrow next to ‘Subscriptions.’
- Find the outlet you wish to unsubscribe from.
- In the right-hand corner, find the ribbon icon.
- Tap and hold down the ribbon icon. A menu will appear.
- Toggle ‘Subscribe’ off.
How to hide content on 'Discover'
- Open Snapchat.
- Swipe left.
- Underneath the ‘Subscriptions’ section, find ‘For You.’
- Tap and hold the content you wish to hide. A menu will appear.
- Tap ‘Hide [Name].’
A story is a photo or video that you submit to be available for just 24 hours on your account. Many users will add to their story multiple times a day. After Snapchat popularized the format, Facebook
offered story-creation tools, too.
Stories appear as circles, and when you tap them, they autoplay the pictures or videos the user collected. You can create personal stories that your friends can view for a 24-hour period.
Or, if you think your Snap is particularly interesting or newsworthy, you can send it to Our Story. Our Stories are like mini-documentaries of events, holidays, game championships, or other things happening in the world on a particular day. Snaps are curated and compiled by the company. While it's cool to have your story added to Our Story, it's also very public, so kids should think carefully before submitting one.
When reading through the list of Snapchat terms, one thing that may stick out is the prevalence of location sharing. This is a major concern for many parents, as allowing anyone to see your child's whereabouts at any given moment is a bit frightening, to say the least. Here's how you can disable the Snap Map
- On your child's phone, open the map from the Snapchat home screen by pinching your fingers in toward the middle of the screen (from the corners inward).
- Tap the Settings icon in the upper-right corner of the screen.
- Select Ghost Mode to hide your child's location.
To completely turn off location sharing, go to the main settings menu on your child's phone and change Snapchat's permissions. Note that this will prevent them from using certain geography-based filters.
General Snapchat Safety Tips
Despite the app touting the concept of disappearing photos
, it's important to talk to your child about the permanence of anything they share on social apps. Anyone who receives a photo can take a screenshot of the image, ensuring it lives forever. (The app will send a notification to the sender if a photo is captured). It's crucial that your child understands that nothing they put online is temporary. Many teens have found themselves in uncomfortable situations by sharing embarrassing photos.
If your child signed up for Snapchat with their correct birth date, they should not see adult content, as Snapchat filters content for underage users. Often though, children will put an older birthdate to circumvent this built-in limiter. Most kids use Snapchat to be expressive and goofy and stay in touch with friends (maybe a bit too much!) There is some mature content, but Snapchat is generally appropriate for those ages 16 and older.