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Snapchat and What Parents Need to Know
Parents often ask how to deal with the peer pressure that their children face to use Snapchat even though they are under the age of 13. This is what you need to know before you allow your child to sign up for a Snapchat account.
What is Snapchat and what are its benefits?
- Snapchat allows children to share snaps of pictures or videos from their phones.
- Snapchat is a photo messaging app that allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of people.
- The user controls how long the Snaps are available for and usually it is just for few seconds.
- Recipients of images can’t download them, but they can take a screenshot of them and send that to other people, so parents should remind children not to share inappropriate images on social media.
What are the main concerns about using Snapchat?
- The main attraction of the app for children and young people is that they can post silly pictures or videos of themselves to their friends with the thought that photos will disappear in a few hours. Unfortunately, this is not the case: Snaps do not always disappear. Snaps can be saved as screenshots and there have been some occasions where the snaps were used for bullying, extortion, or grooming purposes. (Grooming is when a person, usually an adult, tries to establish a close friendship with a child in order to abuse the child later on.)
- Children may believe that the app gives them total privacy and may rush into sharing photos and videos. Unfortunately, this is not true: Total privacy is not possible on Snapchat, nor on any social media platform. Metadata (data about data) can be extracted from the phone even after snaps have been deleted and can also contain revealing information.
- Another concern with Snapchat is the geo-localization feature. If your child uses Snapchat, other users can know exactly where your child is located – in real-time and in real life. "Snapmap", a feature within the app where you can see where Snap users are located, must be disabled or your child must use Snapchat in "Ghost Mode" in order to keep their location private.
- On many occasions, teenagers obsess over their Snapchat score (sum of snaps sent and received) and their "Snapstreak" score, which is the sum of consecutive days a user has been snapping with somebody. If you do not respond to a snap within 24 hours (for which you get an hourglass warning). Teens use that as a measure of the strength of their friendships. Not only does it put a lot of pressure on them to keep up, causing them to snap on all hours of the day, but it makes or breaks relationships and perhaps worst of it all, reduces friendships to a number. This number is of course meaningless because most of the time teens are just forced to snap each other just to keep the score up.
What are the legal terms and conditions of Snapchat use?
Snapchat, like many other social media apps, prevents children under 13 years of age to use it. The age of 13 was chosen in order to respect the Child Online Protection Privacy Act in the United States, which forbids companies from collecting data and market itself to children younger than 13 years of age.
The user basically grants companies a free pass to do as they please with the user’s content, if privacy settings are not enabled. Also, parents should be aware that when their child uses Snapchat, he(she) agrees to grant Snapchat access to his(her) online contacts' information. In other words, your child gives Snapchat access to other people's information - without their consent!
There are Informative Parent’s Guides to Snapchat are available from the following resources:
Snapchat, like all social media apps, can be a fun and engaging tool if used safely. Therefore, Critical thinking and responsible use of technology and social media are fundamental for your digital child.
Please continue to use Snapchat and other social media apps in a responsible manner by consulting the Safespace website and reading tips regarding online etiquette.