Almost every day, a new phone application is introduced or launched. When one stands out, it could go viral in an instant, causing billions of users to flock and utilize it for some time. Unfortunately in most cases, an app’s popularity is the same reason why it becomes a den of malicious users and online predators.
Among such popular apps is Snapchat – a free social media and messaging app with over 500 million users across the globe. Hence, if your kids’ Snapchat use is not properly supervised, they could fall victim to various cyber threats lurking on the platform. Protect yourself and your loved ones with these Snapchat safety tips.
What Is Snapchat?
Snapchat is a social media app developed by Snap, Inc. (formerly known as Snapchat, Inc.). It’s a multimedia messaging app with options to share photos and videos on public feeds or private chats. It can be accessed on smartphones and tablets, free of charge.
Snapchat is created for users 13 years and older. Though there’s no initial DOB verification in place, parents can reach out to Snapchat to see if their kids below 13 have an active account. They’ll only need to provide the child’s name/username and any documentation proving their relationship.
Once you’ve created an account with Snapchat, you can add people to your friends’ list by importing them from your phone contacts, finding them using their username, or scanning their Snapcode (Snapchat’s user-specific QR code).
Snapchat is known for its fun and unique filters and lenses which can be applied right after you’ve captured anything. You may then start sharing photos and videos, more commonly known as Snaps. By default, the files and messages disappear automatically a few seconds after the recipient opens them. Aside from enabling users to send chat messages and initiate audio or video calls, here are other equally fun and beneficial features of Snapchat.
This is the public feed section where snaps can be shared with the broader community. Though content can be accessed by the general public, Snapchat doesn’t allow public comments.
This section displays news, updates, announcements, articles, and other content from third-party publishers or companies, Snapchat creators known as Snap Stars, and the Snapchat administration.
My Story allows users to share snaps in chronological order and narrative manner. These can be viewed only by the user’s friends for 24 hours.
Memories are the collection of your saved snaps and stories. You’ll have the option to store such files in a password-protected section called My Eyes Only.
This is a map-like section where users can see or share their locations. Snaps shared in the public community will also appear on the map exactly where the said snap was taken.
Snapchat Safety Concerns To Watch Out For
Though there’s a minimum age requirement to create a Snapchat account, anyone can bypass this feature. Hence, though Snapchat is advertised to be a mobile application for those 13 years and older, younger kids could be hanging out on this virtual platform and unknowingly exposing themselves to cyber threats.
Even adults, or those 13 to 17 years old, could fall victim to the various dangers lurking on Snapchat. Here are some of the safety concerns you must watch out for.
1. The False Impression of the Self-Destruct Feature
Yes, the self-destruct feature of Snapchat works – a snap vanishes after it’s opened and deleted after 24 hours. Unfortunately, this feature is misinterpreted by several users, thinking that it’s okay to share sexy or sensitive photos or videos of themselves. In fact, this is one of the major reasons why some think/use Snapchat as a safe sexting app. Note that whatever happens on the other end of the line cannot be controlled by Snapchat. The recipient or viewer can screenshot or capture your snaps utilizing a separate device which they can then use as they like.
2. Exposure to Age-Inappropriate Content
Teens posing as adults are more likely to get exposed to age-inappropriate content. Suggestive and evocative snaps could be detrimental to users, especially the younger ones. More than they admit, such content could affect their personal behaviors and perceptions, and their social relationships in real life.
5. Personal Information Falling Into the Wrong Hands
Hundreds of thousands of personal information are intentionally or unintentionally disclosed on social media platforms every day. Users seem to forget that it’s almost impossible to control who views anything they share online, including items sent within third-party apps with self-destruct features. You have to be mindful that any digital footprint – from disclosed phone numbers to uploaded photos can be traced back to you.
4. ‘Friendly’ Chats with Possible Child Groomers or Sexual Predators
Similar to other social media platforms, not all users you interact with are who they say they are. Catfishers, or users who hide their malicious intentions on fake profiles, are no longer just hanging out on online dating sites. They have now made a presence on supposedly ‘friendly’ platforms like Snapchat. Kids being innocent and trusting by nature might not recognize they’re already entertaining child groomers or sexual predators.
Snapchat Safety Tips To Teach Your Kid
Then again, just because online dangers are lurking on Snapchat doesnât mean you should forbid your kids from utilizing this social media app. This is because, despite the cyber threats, there are certain precautionary measures you can take. In fact, there are built-in Snapchat parental controls you can teach your kids. Here are some of those Snapchat safety tips.
1. Limit Publicly Available Information
One basic rule, yet often forgotten, is to limit the information shared. Be there when your child creates a Snapchat account to ensure they aren’t oversharing personal data. Make it a habit to check out their profile and follow their stories frequently.
2. Be Thorough in Requesting and Accepting Friends
Advise your kids to be selective of their friend lists; remind them that it’s not a quantitative game. They should only accept requests from users they personally know and shouldn’t be lured by that cute profile picture or charming bio.
Block users if deemed necessary. Here’s how:
- Within the app, select the Chat option located on the bottom menu.
- Click on the specific user you wish to be blocked.
- Tap on their profile icon located on the top-left corner.
- Tap on the Colon (:) button located on the top-right corner.
- Select Block and/or Remove Friend.
3. Customize Privacy Settings
Snapchat is packed with various privacy settings, so be sure to maximize these. For instance, you can control who gets to send your child snaps (Who Can Contact Me feature), send them notifications (Who Can Send Me Notifications feature), and see their location (Who Can See My Location feature). You can set each of these to Everyone, My Friends, Only Me, or a customized friends list. Also, turn off the See Me in Quick Add feature so that they can only be added by persons who know their exact usernames.
Several other safety nets in place are Snapchat’s Here For You, a pro-active in-app support for users experiencing mental health or emotional crisis. Snapchat has also launched a digital literacy program called Safety Snapshot which aims to educate users about data privacy, personal security, and online safety issues. If indeed, your kids register as a user below 18 years old, Snapchat has a separate age-appropriate browsable public feed for them.
4. Enable Ghost Mode
GPS location is probably the easiest way to track persons. So, it’s safer to set your kid’s account to Ghost Mode. This feature filters the location to be publicly displayed and accessible. Here’s how to enable this feature:
- Click on the profile icon located in the top-left corner of the Snapchat app.
- Select the Settings icon located on the top-right corner.
- Choose the See My Location option.
- Tap on the checkmark right beside the Ghost Mode selection.
5. Manage The Discover Section
The Discover Section contains public snaps, stories, news, and articles. In some instances, users, brands, and influencers share explicit content or age-inappropriate material. To control which will appear in this section, you can unsubscribe to channels, hide creators, channels, or content, and report any abusive or malicious material.
6. Flag Any Safety Concern
Lastly, you can report anything that concerns your childâs safety or privacy – from snaps to content articles. Simply long-press whatever material you wish to flag and click on the Flag button. This will automatically alert Snapchatâs admin for proper actions. You can also flag safety concerns on Snapchat’s website.
Staying safe online could be rather challenging especially for younger users. Aside from the aforementioned safety tips and parental controls, you could also rely on third-party monitoring software for remote real-time access to their Snapchat activities, engagements, and interactions. Above all, be involved with your childâs personal life – both in the real and virtual world.