Snapchat is currently the fourth most popular social media platform, with about 500 million registered users and 300 million daily active users. The Snapchat app is also popular among children. Statista reports that 63% of 13- and 14-year-olds and 74% of 15–17-year-olds in the US were on Snapchat in 2018. Young ones enjoy Snapchat because it offers multiple tools to communicate, share, and have fun. However, child development experts consider Snapchat to be a safety and health risk to children.
If you’re a parent with a tween or teen, you may wonder, ‘Is Snapchat safe for kids?’ Therefore, this article aims to introduce Snapchat and its features, how it may risk your child’s safety, and how to protect your child from its pitfalls. By the end of this article, you’ll also know how to monitor and control your child’s activity on Snapchat and, if necessary, stop them from using it via the Safes parental control suite.
What is Snapchat?
If you’re unfamiliar with Snapchat, it stands somewhere between a social media platform and a messaging app. It has some of the functions of both. For example, users on Snapchat can share pictures, videos, and text (called ‘snaps’) with friends or publicly. On the other hand, they can chat with friends and send multimedia messages.
What makes Snapchat stand out among similar platforms such as TikTok, Instagram, or WhatsApp is that it involves registering instant moments of life. That’s why whenever you tap Snapchat, it opens the front camera to shoot a picture or video to share as a story or in a chat. Moreover, your stories and snaps disappear either after being viewed or after a maximum of 24 hours. The infinite visual and audio effects you can put on your pictures and videos are other hallmarks of Snapchat.
Innovative and amusing features of Snapchat, which has attracted millions of people worldwide, made rival platforms copy some of them. For example, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Instagram copied Snapchat’s ‘stories’. Telegram also copied the ‘disappearing messages’ functions.
How Does Snapchat Risk Kid’s Safety?
So far, Snapchat appears to be an innocent app meant to communicate and goof around. You may wonder why to ask, ‘Is Snapchat safe for kids?’. However, some people abuse Snapchat’s features. You may be shocked to know that sometimes Snapchat works as a ‘sexting app’!
In the following paragraphs, we’ll introduce all the features of Snapchat that may pose security risks for children.
When you start a chat, you can choose the snaps (the content you share in the chat) to either disappear after being viewed by the recipient or after 24 hours. This means there would be no record of your chats after one day at most.
This function propels children and adults alike to share content inconsiderately. Thinking that their content will soon vanish, they may say words or share pictures and videos without thinking twice. Sometimes people share hurtful, disrespectful, or vulgar things.
It’s necessary to explain to your child who wishes to or is using Snapchat that there’s no guarantee someone won’t make a record of their snaps. It is true that if the recipient takes a screenshot of the snaps, Snapchat will notify your child. However, as of now, there’s no way Snapchat can tell if someone takes pictures of chats using another phone or a camera.
What you need to be more concerned about is people taking advantage of the disappearing messages to sext, send nudes, or sell illegal products. People are doing it every day on Snapchat. There’s no way for parents to know if their children have engaged in such activities.
It’s easy to find contacts on Snapchat. You can add people from your contact list, look for suggested friends based on mutual friends and other factors on Snapchat, or share your ‘snap code’ (a unique QR code) or link with others. Anyhow, children tend to add people they don’t really know. These people can see your child’s stories and location (if not turned off) and chat with your child.
Strangers can pose various risks for your child. Some of them could be groomers and sex predators trying to abuse your child. Some others could be phishers and hackers trying to steal your child’s personal information or harm their devices. Also, strangers and the people your child knows may take advantage of the content your child shares online to cyberbully them.
On Snapchat, users can see their contacts’ exact locations on a world map. Location sharing can cause safety problems when you have people on your contact list whom you don’t want to know your location. By sharing locations, it’s possible that your child finds stalkers.
If there is an event that your child has attended, such as a ceremony, festival, or concert, they can tag their stories to appear publicly in the ‘Our Story’ section. Snapchat moderators hand-pick these stories to show to the public. This feature, however, raises the question if your child’s stories are appropriate to be shared publicly and whether that would have consequences.
By default, Snapchat doesn’t allow people under 18 to share their stories in the Our Story section. But faking someone’s age on Snapchat is not difficult.
In the ‘Discover’ section on Snapchat, you can find public content shared by Snapchat users or corporations working with Snapchat. Public stories that go into Our Stories appear here. Also, Publisher Stories (brand advertisement) and Snap Originals (short videos produced by corporations exclusively for Snapchat) appear here. You can also find ‘Friends’ to add and channels to subscribe to.
Snapchat curates the content in Discover using an algorithm that assesses users’ favorite topics, mutual friends, and age. Snapchat won’t display any adult content unless your child fakes their age. However, as said earlier, faking your age is not difficult on Snapchat.
On Snapchat, users can take photos and videos of themselves or others and apply visual effects on them. Some of these effects, called ‘Lenses’ and ‘Filters’, can give unrealistic aspects to a person’s face and body. For example, they can put makeup on your face or give you plastic surgery.
Children tend to use these fun filters so often that sometimes their contacts on Snapchat don’t recognize them with their natural looks. This tendency can turn into an obsession to look perfect and ‘supernatural’ in the real world.
Snapchat puts a ‘Snapstreak’ badge consisting of a flame emoji and a number next to it on the profile avatar of the people you chat with daily. The number goes up each day you exchange a snap. If you don’t exchange a snap for 24 hours, the badge will be taken away from you.
There seems to be no reason for creating this function other than encouraging people to make a habit of using Snapchat. If that’s the case, it was a successful idea because many children are obsessed with maintaining their Snapstreak. Snapstreak is a time waster for children because they force themselves to open Snapchat every day and send gibberish to their contacts just to keep up the streak.
How to Protect Children on Snapchat?
Snapchat doesn’t allow children under 13 to sign up and use Snapchat. But it doesn’t have any age verification process. Therefore, children can easily fake their age. Some functions of Snapchat, such as money transactions, are not permitted for minors (below 18). However, teenagers between 13 to 18 can use most of the features of Snapchat without parental permission. All of this means that Snapchat isn’t safe for 10-year-olds and young children in general.
Despite Snapchat’s age limit, many parents still wonder, ‘Is Snapchat safe for 14-year-olds?’ or ‘Is Snapchat safe for teen kids?’. Although it varies from child to child, Common Sense doesn’t believe Snapchat to be safe for children below 16 due to its safety and health concerns.
When it comes to keeping your child safe on Snapchat, using the default parental controls on Android and iPhone devices can provide an extra layer of security. Refer to our comprehensive guide on “iPhone parental controls” for iPhone users to learn how to restrict access and monitor your child’s Snapchat activity. Similarly, Android users can use our “Android parental control guide” to implement appropriate restrictions. You can create a safer online environment for your children by combining the inherent features of these devices with your active participation.
Anyhow, if you decide to let your child use Snapchat, make sure you check their account’s privacy control and use Snapchat’s Family Center for parental controls. In the following, we’ll explain in detail.
How to Turn on Snapchat’s Privacy Control
Thanks to Snapchat’s privacy control, your child can avoid the majority of safety risks. When you first create an account, the privacy settings are set to provide a relatively safe experience. For maximum safety, it is good to take a look at them.
To access the privacy settings, tap your child’s profile avatar. Then tap the gear (settings) icon to open settings. You have a list of settings in the settings panel. The first thing to look for is ‘Birthday’. Check to see if it’s showing the correct date of birth.
Scroll down to the ‘PRIVACY CONTROL’ section, where you have a series of privacy settings.
In ‘Contact Me’, you may decide who can contact (chat, call, etc.) your child. By default, ‘Friends and Contacts’ is checked. To make it the safest, check ‘Friend’, which means only your child’s two-way friends list can contact your child.
Here, you may decide who can see your child’s stories. By default, ‘Friends Only’ is checked. But if you want only certain people to see your child’s stories, check ‘Custom’ and then select the desired people.
See Me in Quick Add
Here, you can decide whether or not Snapchat shows your child’s profile in the friend suggestion section called ‘Quick Add’. We suggest unchecking ‘Show me in Quick Add’.
In the ‘My Location’ section, ‘Ghost Mode’ is checked by default. This means that no one can see your child’s location on Snapchat. Let it be that way.
How to Turn on Snapchat’s Parental Controls (Snapchat Family Center)
Snapchat has built-in parental controls called Family Center. You can find Snapchat’s parental controls in the privacy control section on your Snapchat account’s settings. By creating this feature, Snapchat lets parents monitor their teenagers without invading their privacy. That means they can see their children’s friends and who they have contacted within the last seven days. However, they cannot see the content of their discussions.
To use Family Center, you need to invite your child, and your child needs to accept your invitation. Not to forget that Snapchat assumes children below 13 don’t use their services. Therefore, Family Center only applies to teenagers between 13 to 18 years old. This means that Snapchat isn’t safe for 12-year-olds.
Monitor & Control Your Child’s Activity on Snapchat Using Safes
Snapchat’s privacy settings give your child relative online safety. Family Center lets you stay current with whom your child interacts on Snapchat. However, it doesn’t stop them from overusing Snapchat or faking their age to use Snapchat. It’s rather impossible to check your child’s phone to see if they have Snapchat installed or keep an eye on them to see if they’re overusing. Nonetheless, the Safes parental control suite solves the problem.
Safes is a parental control suite that can help you monitor how your child uses their phone, tablet, or computer. It gives you total control over the apps and websites your child uses remotely. That means you don’t need to touch their devices after installing Safes Kid (a companion app installed on children’s devices) to receive reports or make limitations. You can access everything on your phone or using Safe’s web panel on your computer. There’s no way your child can revoke your controls. Secure your child’s digital world with Safes! Start your free trial today and unlock advanced parental control features that provide comprehensive protection. Begin your trial now and ensure a safer online experience for your family!
Concluding Is Snapchat Safe for Kids
Snapchat is a popular social media platform among children and adults alike. However, despite its colorful world, parents wonder, ‘Is Snapchat safe for kids?’. While Snapchat restricts children below 13 from using Snapchat, experts believe the platform is unsafe for children below 16. By learning about Snapchat’s features and the risks they pose to children, you can decide for yourself whether to let your child use Snapchat or not.
If you decide to let your child use Snapchat, make sure you check their account’s privacy settings and use Snapchat Family Center. You can monitor and control your child’s Snapchat use with Safes parental control suite. If you decide not to permit your child to use Snapchat again, you can use Safes to block their access to the platform.