Everything parents need to know about Snapchat safety
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat is an app that allows users to send photos or messages that disappear after a set time limit. The idea was to provide some level of privacy to allow users to open up and express more freely without the fear of photos being shared beyond the original recipient. A user can take a picture, make some edits, add some text and then send it to friends; the friends have 1-10 seconds to view the photo before it is deleted. The temporary or ephemeral nature of the app seeks to encourage creativity and unhindered self-expression.
“When you see your children taking a zillion photographs of things you would never take a picture of, it's because they're using photographs to talk,” observes Evan Spiegel, Snapchat founder and CEO, in a 2015 video explaining the inspiration and raison-d’etre behind the new age social media app. Snaps can be personalized to a great extent through easy-to-use instant-editing tools such as captions, drawings, emojis, filters and even augmented reality. But despite all the fun, there have been growing concerns regarding sexting, cyberbullying among other issues that have marred the meteoric rise of Snapchat.
Evan Spiegel, CEO of Snap Inc., on Snapchat
A 2017 survey conducted by Common Sense Media showed that 29% of parents expressed concern about their teens’ use of Snapchat. In comparison, only 16% of the respondents were worried about Facebook and a mere 6% about Instagram. Snapchat and other chic/trendy social media apps are attracting teens and adolescents from yesteryear social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr; nearly half of US teens say they prefer Snapchat over other social media sites, including Instagram, Twitter and Facebook. Hence, parental concern regarding the use of new age social media apps is bound to grow!
Here are some of the major concerns that parents need to be aware of:
False Sense of Security
Snapchat is built around the idea of ephemeral messages and pictures, but that isn’t entirely accurate. Screenshots can easily be taken by the recipient and saved. Snapchat tries to send a notification to the original sender when a screenshot is taken, but this is not foolproof and cannot be relied upon. In addition to screenshots, photos can easily be taken of the screen itself; while third-party apps exist to allow users to save others' Snaps!
Much like how PC recovery software can bring back files from the dead, there are ways to restore deleted Snaps; although they require some effort, such methods can be leveraged for inappropriate uses by motivated individuals. There’s never a fool-proof way to wipe out digital footprints; privacy is almost in direct opposition to the concept of a connected world.
Many kids and teens are tempted to send mean and bullying messages because messages and pictures are anyway bound to disappear. Believing that there is no or little way to document and follow up on bullying, encourages such negative behavior.
Due to the design of the app, it is very commonly used for sending inappropriate nude pictures among teens. The false promise of privacy can lead teens to send sexually explicit pictures to friends or romantic partners; such pictures could wind up on the wider internet. Also, teens can be sent sexually explicit pictures without their approval or consent! There’s no such thing as “anonymity” online. Children also use texting codes such as ‘PMOYS’ and it’s high time you learn to decipher those!
Despite a policy that requires users to be 13 years or older, in compliance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), there is no stopping young children from signing up on the platform with fake birth dates.
This feature rolled out last year, pinpoints users' exact locations on a map once they share their stories. Sharing location online can be an open invitation for trouble from stalkers, other miscreants and even terrorists. Such features create what are known as "soft targets," areas where terrorists attack a big event attended by civilians.
Snapchat Updates in 2023:
1.Teen safety features:Snapchat’s new safeguards take aim at some of these concerns by introducing features aimed at better protecting 13- to 17-year-olds from online risks.
In-App Warnings: Snapchat will now display in-app warnings when a minor adds a friend on the app when they don’t already share mutual friends or the person isn’t in their contacts. This message is meant to help the teen more carefully consider if they want to be in contact with this person.
Stronger Friending Protections:Snap has raised the bar when minors appear in search results. Now it will require a greater number of friends in common, based on the number of friends the user has, making it even tougher for teens to connect with people they don’t know.
2. Strike system: Snap is implementing a three-part strike system across Stories and Spotlight, where users can find public content that reaches a large audience. Under the new system, Snap says it will immediately remove inappropriate content that it proactively detects or that gets reported to the company. If an account tries to circumvent Snap’s rules, it will also be banned.
3. Education and Information on Online Safety: Across Stories and Search features, Snapchat will now highlight resources, including hotlines for help, if young people encounter sexual risks, like catfishing, financial sextortion, taking and sharing of explicit images, and more.
4. Resources for Parents: For parents, meanwhile, Snap is launching an online resource at parents.snapchat.com as well as a new YouTube explainer series to help get families up to speed on how Snapchat works and how to use the app’s parental controls.
How to Use Snapchat Safely and Responsibly?
Safety is the name of the game when it comes to enjoying Snapchat. Understanding the ropes is essential whether you're a tech-savvy parent or an adventurous kid. For kids, it's about navigating the digital world smartly, and for parents, it's about being the protective shield. Dive into our must-know tips below for a Snapchat experience that's both fun and secure!
Tips for Parents:
- Open Communication: Have an open, non-judgmental conversation about Snapchat. Encourage them to share their experiences, concerns, and friends list.
- Educate on Privacy: Teach them to set their profile private, allowing only friends to view their snaps and stories. Explain the risks of sharing personal information with strangers.
- Friend Management: Advise them to only add and communicate with people they know personally. Review their friend list together periodically.
- Think Before Sharing: Remind them that snaps can be screenshotted and shared beyond their control. Encourage them to think twice before sharing anything private or embarrassing.
- Online Etiquette: Teach respectful online behavior. Cyberbullying can occur on any platform, so ensure they treat others as they would in real life.
- Be a Role Model: Show responsible social media use yourself. They often emulate your behavior, so practice what you preach.
- Stay Updated: Familiarize yourself with Snapchat and its features. This will help you understand potential risks and guide your teen more effectively.
- Use Parental Control Software: Consider using parental control software like Mobicip to set time limits and monitor your child's online activities. Make sure they understand why you're using it – for their safety, not to invade their privacy.
Tips for Teens:
- Privacy Settings: Set your Snapchat account to private so only your approved friends can see your snaps and stories.
- Be Choosy with Friends: Only add people you know in real life to your friends list. Avoid accepting requests from strangers.
- Think Before You Snap: Before sending a snap, consider if it's something you'd be comfortable showing anyone, including your family or teachers.
- Avoid Sharing Personal Info: Refrain from sharing sensitive information like your location, phone number, or other personal details in your snaps or stories.
- Mind Your Time: Set limits on your Snapchat use. Spending too much time on social media can affect your studies and real-life interactions.
- Be Wary of Third-Party Apps: Stick to the official Snapchat app. Using third-party apps can compromise your account's security.
- Ask for Help: If you encounter anything uncomfortable or concerning, talk to a trusted adult, like a parent, teacher, or school counselor.
- Be in control: Use a parental control solution to keep your Snapchat time in check. Please don't uninstall the parental control app your parents have set up.
Snapchat has no internal moderation and no parental controls, and as such, can be very risky. Banning it entirely will likely create a lot of pushback as it is very popular among teens. So it is imperative to have an in-depth conversation on the risks and concerns about its use, for a teen can easily install the app during the day, use it and then uninstall before coming home, effectively hiding the use of it. Yubo and Poprazzi are some other popular apps your child might be using.
Here are some helpful resources and tips for using Snapchat safely:
This post on Smart Social is a collection of tips from 7 technology experts who provide unique insights on parental concerns regarding Snapchat and Instagram and tips to avoid the same.