People love Snapchat, and chances are your teen is using it. While you may know the basics, the app is constantly evolving, so it’s important to have the latest info as well as instructions for some key parental controls.
What Parents Need to Know About Snapchat
The pictures and short videos, known as “snaps,” are displayed in three main ways and they all have different expirations.
- Snaps sent to friends are gone once viewed.
- Snaps sent in groups can be seen twice.
- Snaps added to stories are public for 24 hours.
Teens use Snapchat for fun, viewing it as mimicking a real conversation: You say something and then it’s said and gone. However, you should still have a conversation about how social media can impact their future. Let them know other Snapchat users can take screenshots of snaps, so nothing is private. If they wouldn’t want you to see it, they probably shouldn’t be sharing it on Snapchat.
After Opening, Where Do These “Snaps” Go?
Snaps saved onto Snapchat’s servers are determined by users. Snapchat keeps photos or videos users save to their “Memories” until the user deletes it themselves. The app also has partial access to a user’s pictures and footage in their camera roll.
Social media access to one’s camera roll can pose a serious threat to one’s online security. Pictures saved to online servers can be used without the owner’s permission, due to the lack of protective online privacy legislation in the US. In 2019, The New York Times discovered images of minors uploaded to Flickr appeared in an online database called Megaface, used to improve facial recognition technology.
Online security aside, Snapchat users can also replay snaps, screenshot pictures, and screen record any videos they receive using their own device, another phone or third-party recording apps. As secure as a social media site may seem, it’s still a social platform. And on such platforms, nothing is private. So parents shouldn’t hesitate to talk to their teens about how social media can impact their future.
Snapchat Age Restrictions
Following the US Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), the minimum age for a Snapchat user is 13. Entering the birth year during sign up tells the system if an account can be created.
However, there is no verification in place to make sure the person is telling the truth. That means older people can masquerade as someone younger and catfish or cyberstalk your kids, or underage minors can get onto the service before they’re socially mature enough to handle it. That’s why it’s important to always check in with your preteen, look at their phone and see if they are using the app.
Take some advice from Snapchat’s Parent’s Guide: “As parents, it’s important to keep the lines of communication open and to work together to figure out what’s appropriate for your family in terms of safety, privacy, reputation and time management.”
Snapchat Parental Controls
You will need your child’s phone to access their account and set up parental controls. Here’s what you can do:
- When you open the app it will immediately turn on the camera and show you staring at the phone. Click the head icon in the top left to go to the Dashboard / Profile page.
- On the top right is the gear image. This will let you access Snapchat’s Settings.
- Scroll down to the Who Can section. Under “Contact Me” select “My Friends.” This ensures that snaps can be sent and received only by those already in the contacts list. In this same section, you can decide who is able to “View My Story.”
- Under “See My Location” you can decide if your child’s friends can see their location. You can also block certain people — or everyone — from seeing your child’s location information.
- So that other kids don’t mess with your child’s account, it’s smart to add password protection using Two-Factor Authentication. At the top of the Settings screen, under the My Account section, select “Two-Factor Authentication” and follow the steps to set it up. You can either do it through text message, or using a code generated on the Google Authenticator app (link below).
- Keep an eye out for a folder called “For My Eyes Only.” In this folder, users can actually save snaps, a feature that most people don’t know about. You can see if this folder has been enabled in your child’s account by looking in “Memories” under the My Account section.
Unfortunately, you will not be able to monitor your child’s direct activity within the app since there is no scroll feed. One smart idea is to create an account of your own to follow your child’s posts.
You should also have a conversation with them about safety and responsibility. Talk about cyberbullying, posting nude or inappropriate photos, and the consequences of making poor choices on social media. Frequently check in with how they are feeling about using the app so that they know they can talk to you if a problem arises.
Finally, if there are any concerns, you can report them directly to Snapchat Safety Center.