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Is Snapchat Safe For Kids? What Parents Need to Know

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media apps for teens — but some features can make your child vulnerable to predators and other online threats.

Snapchat is one of the most popular social media apps for teens — but some features can make your child vulnerable to predators and other online threats.

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      Should Your Child Be Using Snapchat?

      Snapchat is the third most popular social media platform among teens (behind only TikTok and YouTube), with 43% of teens saying they use Snapchat multiple times a day or “almost constantly” [*]. But while many kids and parents may think that the “disappearing” aspect of Snapchat’s content keeps users safer online, this isn’t always the case. 

      Snapchat’s features have greatly evolved during the nearly 13 years since the platform was launched — which has also prompted new safety concerns for teens and parents.

      While Snapchat offers a decent level of protection for teens through the Snapchat Family Center, there are still safety risks and other considerations that parents should be aware of before deciding if Snapchat is right for their kids.

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      Is Snapchat Safe? What Parents Need To Know

      Snapchat is especially popular among teens and young people because it allows them to connect with their peers authentically and in real-time. Users can send “snaps” directly to individuals on their friend lists and in group chats, or share them publicly via stories.

      With a vast array of filters, lenses, and other “snap effects,” Snapchat can be a creative outlet, too.

      Snapchat works much differently than other social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook. If you’ve never used it before, you might not know exactly what it does, or what your kids mean when they talk about using it.

      Here are the most common Snapchat facts and terminology that parents should understand:

      • Snapchat age rating. Snapchat’s terms of service state that you need to be 13 years old to use it [*]. However, resources like Common Sense Media rate Snapchat as 16+ [*]. Users are asked to provide their birthdates when signing up to verify their ages. 
      • Snap Map. The Snap Map is a location-sharing feature that allows users to share and see other users’ locations. Turning on “Ghost Mode” hides users’ locations [*], preventing them from accidentally sharing their locations with strangers.
      • Face lenses and filters. Snapchat’s face lenses use augmented reality technology to accurately transform a user’s face into something else, such as a puppy or flower. Filters are overlays that users can add on top of snaps to give a face a different appearance.
      • Snapstreaks. When two users send snaps back and forth for consecutive days, that starts a snapstreak. The length of the snapstreak in days is the number beside the fire emoji next to a user’s name.
      • Stories. These are photos and videos users post to their stories feeds that last for 24 hours. Stories feeds can be set to be viewable to the public, friends only, or a custom audience.
      • Spotlights. Spotlights are short-form videos (similar to those on TikTok or in Reels). You can access Spotlights by clicking on the tab that looks like a play button in the bottom Snapchat menu.
      • Snapcode. Similar to QR codes, snapcodes are special images that can be scanned within Snapchat to access certain features. For example, users each get their own snapcode that they can share to make it easy for others to “quick add” them as a friend.
      • “My Eyes Only.” This is an encrypted, password-protected vault to which users can send snaps, memories, and photos from their camera roll.

      The bottom line: Snapchat’s features have evolved since its early days as a “send a photo/video that disappears” messaging app. Yet, many parents and teens don’t realize the potential risks involved with using it.

      What Are the Safety and Privacy Risks of Using Snapchat?

      Strangers and predators can add your children

      All that is needed for anyone to discover and add your child on Snapchat is your child’s name or username. This could be a potential safety and privacy concern, as many kids may unknowingly add people they don’t know to their friend lists — exposing their personal information, photos, and videos to strangers or even online predators.

      However, one major benefit of the Snapchat Family Center is that parents can see with whom their children are interacting — thereby giving them an opportunity to intervene.

      three mobile app screenshots showing the Snapchat Family Center with examples of seeing your child’s Snapchat friends and conversations
      Snapchat’s Family Center allows parents to see the names of friends with whom their children are engaging in the app. Source: Snapchat

      Pro tip: Parents need a Snapchat account to access the Family Center. Snapchat’s parental controls provide powerful safety tools — but they require parents to have their own accounts.

      Potential exposure to inappropriate content

      Much of Snapchat’s content is unfiltered and easy to access for most users. Your kids could stumble upon inappropriate content by accident or even look it up intentionally.

      Depending on the account’s privacy settings, strangers could even send your kids unsolicited explicit messages. The best way to prevent this is to limit who can contact your children to “friends only.”

      Location sharing and other privacy concerns

      Snapchat’s features normalize real-time location sharing, but this feature can make it easy for predators, stalkers, and other bad actors to track down your children. Snaps and stories may also be viewable by strangers who are not on your child’s friend list — making your child more likely to be targeted by ill-intentioned individuals.

      Cyberbullying and pressure to send sensitive images

      Teens can face many different pressures to engage online — such as constantly sharing snaps, sharing their locations, or even sending sensitive images of themselves.

      Cyberbullies can easily create accounts to anonymously target their peers, and the disappearing nature of snaps makes it even more difficult to track them down. 

      Likewise, your teen could be pressured by peers or even strangers with requests to send explicit photos or other harmful content.

      📚 Learn more: 10 Warning Signs of Cyberbullying Parents Need To Know

      Photos and videos can be saved and shared off platform

      The core concept behind snaps is that they disappear after being viewed. But disappearing messages can give teens a false sense of security, potentially leading them to send sensitive content because they believe it will remain private.

      However, Snapchat users can take screenshots or “screen record” photos, videos, and chats they receive, thereby making these images permanent. Snapchat will notify you if a snap that you sent has been copied in a screenshot — but some third-party apps may make it possible to save content without triggering this notification.

      Snapchat phishing and other scams

      Snapchat is rife with scammers because of how easy it is to create fake accounts. Snapchat scammers may pose as friends or acquaintances, usually with the goal of taking over your child’s account.

      But there are also more serious potential risks your children could face if they fall for Snapchat scams — from harassment to extortion and even identity theft.

      📚 Learn more: The 7 Worst Snapchat Scams You Need To Avoid

      What You Can Do To Make Snapchat Safer for Teens

      1. Use Snapchat with your kids
      2. Make sure your children state their true ages when signing up
      3. Help them select usernames that protect their privacy
      4. Ensure that location sharing is turned off
      5. Limit what content they can access
      6. Review their friend lists and recent contacts
      7. Talk to your kids about sharing safely
      8. Limit or restrict Snapchat usage to specific times
      9. Teach your kids how to block and report content

      If managed properly, you can make Snapchat a safe environment for your kids to interact with their friends.Here are some ways you can reduce privacy and safety risks on Snapchat:

      1. Use Snapchat with your kids

      The best way to understand the risks associated with any app is to try it out yourself. By using Snapchat, you’ll get a better understanding of the types of content and people your kids will be exposed to — so you can better guide them about safe usage.

      🥇 Set time limits on apps, get warned if your child is being bullied online, and more. Aura’s award-winning parental controls help you keep tabs on your kids online and protect them from online threats. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      2. Make sure your children state their true ages when signing up

      Sit down with your children and set up their Snapchat accounts together to make sure they use their real ages. Snapchat comes with automatic settings for users under the age of 17 that can restrict strangers and adults who are not on their friend lists from contacting them.

      Keep in mind that if your child is a tween, they won’t be able to set up a Snapchat account as the platform is rated 13+.

      What to know: Once your children’s Snapchat accounts are created, they won’t be able to change their birth years (to alter their ages to 18 or older). This locks in Snapchat’s automatic safeguards unless your child creates a new account without your knowledge.

      3. Help them select usernames that protect their privacy

      It may seem like a no-brainer for your children to use their full names when creating Snapchat usernames. While this can make it easy for friends and family to add them, it also makes it easier for strangers, predators, and bullies to find their accounts.

      So, sit down with your children and brainstorm usernames that they like — but that don’t reveal their identities straight away.

      Consider these best practices for selecting a Snapchat username:

      • Only use your child’s first name. Avoid including last names, as this can make it easy for predators to find your kids on other platforms such as Facebook.
      • Avoid including their ages or birthdays. Your children’s usernames shouldn’t include any information that might reveal their ages or birthdays.
      • Come up with a creative username that does not disclose your child’s actual name. If you prefer not to have your child’s name contained in the username at all, try finding one related to an interest or hobby. 

      4. Ensure that location sharing is turned off

      When enabled, Snapchat’s location-sharing feature updates in real-time whenever a user opens the app. The Snap Map is also extremely detailed — you can zoom in to reveal highway numbers, street names, and even names of specific buildings and landmarks. This can pose a real threat of stalking, harassment, and other location-tracking safety risks

      Make sure your child’s location is set to “Ghost Mode.” Snapchat’s safety features should automatically do this — but for added privacy, you can also turn off location sharing for the app itself in your device’s settings.

      How to turn off location sharing:

      • In Snapchat: Go to Settings; then scroll down to Privacy Controls, and tap on See My Location. Make sure the Ghost Mode toggle is turned on.
      • Apple: Go to Settings, and then scroll down to Snapchat. Click on Location and select Never.
      • Android: Go to Settings, and then to the Location page. Tap on App location permissions, select Snapchat, and change the permission.

      📚 Make privacy a priority: How To Properly Set Up Social Media Privacy Settings

      5. Review their friend lists and recent contacts

      Keeping tabs on whom your children talk to on Snapchat is one of the best ways to keep them safe while using the app. You can accomplish this by keeping open lines of communication with your children and by using the Snapchat Family Center.

      In the Family Center, you can review your child’s complete list of friends, groups they’re in (and a list of users in them), and see with whom they’ve interacted on the app during the last seven days — including accounts that have since been deactivated or blocked.

      Pro tip: Setting expectations upfront can help you avoid problems before they start. Talk to your kids before they start using Snapchat about which people they can add as friends on the app.

      6. Limit what content they can access

      Keeping tabs on your children’s friend lists can somewhat protect them from inappropriate content, but it’s not a perfect solution. Your child will still be able to view public Stories and Spotlights — and while these may fall within Snapchat’s Community Guidelines, the content may not necessarily be age-appropriate.

      Signing up for Snapchat Family Center allows you to restrict sensitive or suggestive content that your child may see in Stories and Spotlights.

      How to enable this feature: Open your Settings, and scroll down to the Privacy Controls section. Click on Family Center, and toggle on Restrict Sensitive Content.

      7. Talk to your kids about sharing safely

      You can make Snapchat safer for your children by making sure they know what is and isn’t okay to share.

      First, it’s important they understand that what they share never really disappears from the internet entirely. Content can be stored on various servers for certain periods of time. It’s also possible for people to take screenshots or save content that includes sensitive or private information. 

      Talk to your kids about:

      • Private information and online safety. Your kids should know what constitutes “private” information — everything from their Social Security numbers (SSNs) to bank account numbers and social media passwords.
      • Inappropriate photos and chats. Let your teens know that sexting and sharing explicit content is never safe on Snapchat. If they receive unsolicited inappropriate messages, show them how to report it.
      • Real-time location sharing. Sharing locations with Snapchat friends may seem like the cool thing to do, but your child needs to be aware of the very real safety risks that come along with it.
      🔎 Monitor your child’s sensitive information online. Aura combines powerful parental controls with child identity and Dark Web monitoring to warn you if your child’s personal data has been leaked online. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      8. Limit or restrict Snapchat usage to specific times

      With Snapchat features that emphasize real-time sharing, it’s not uncommon for teens to become addicted. Streaks, in particular, can be especially problematic and lead to obsessive use.

      A Snapchat addiction can potentially damage your child’s mental health, and impact their academic and social life if not addressed. If you notice that your teen is becoming very reliant on the app, it’s a good idea to set rules about Snapchat usage.

      Sit down and have an open discussion with your children. Listen to their opinions on reasonable limits, and come up with a rewards system to encourage a healthy balance with real life activities.

      Pro tip: Talking with your teen about limits is always a good idea. But if you want to set a hard time limit, parental control apps like Aura can give you more control so you can effectively enforce any boundaries you set.

      9. Teach your kids how to block and report content

      Even if you take every possible safety precaution, there’s a chance that your child could be exposed to unwanted contact or inappropriate content.

      If you’re a parent enrolled in the Family Center, you can confidentially report any concerning accounts with which your child has interacted — but it’s also important that your kids be equipped to handle these situations on their own.

      How to block users on Snapchat:

      • Go to the Chat screen, and long press the user’s name that you want to block.
      • Click on Manage friendship and then Block.

      How to report content on Snapchat:

      • Direct snaps and stories: Press and hold the snap, and then click on Report Snap.
      • Chats: Press and hold the chat, and then click on Report.
      💪 Learn more from Snapchat: Get more tips on how to safely use Snapchat by visiting the company’s Tools and Resources for Parents page.

      The Bottom Line: Set Healthy Limits on Social Media

      Without certain safety measures in place, using Snapchat — and most other social media apps — can put your child in danger of unwanted content or contact.

      While it’s a good idea to talk to your child about staying safe online, you can’t be everywhere all the time. With Aura, you can keep tabs on how your kids use the internet, set time limits for Snapchat and other apps, and block inappropriate content. 

      Protect your kids from online threats and excessive screen time. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      Editorial note: Our articles provide educational information for you to increase awareness about digital safety. Aura’s services may not provide the exact features we write about, nor may cover or protect against every type of crime, fraud, or threat discussed in our articles. Please review our Terms during enrollment or setup for more information. Remember that no one can prevent all identity theft or cybercrime.

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