Children are increasingly digitally agile. This can pose difficulties for parents who are not as technically literate as their kids. We have put together a guide to Snapchat to help you navigate the app.
Keeping on top of the latest trends in social media is a great tool in your kit to keep your children safe and online and make sure they are using apps that are suitable for their age group. Talking to your children about how to use social media tools safely in an open and honest way is the key to maintaining an open line of communication on this subject. If you are inquisitive about their social media use in a positive way, they are more likely to open up to you if they are experiencing any issues.
What is Snapchat?
Snapchat has a variety of features that make it irresistible to teenagers. It is currently one of the most popular apps in the world! The app allows for instant photo sharing between friends. Sent images disappear after a pre-chosen time period when sent which is a particular draw for this app. This feature allows users to send photos to others that won’t stick around forever, allowing for a more spontaneous exchange than other popular chat apps such as Facebook Messenger or Whatsapp. Snapchat has numerous fun filters that superimpose a variety of cute additions to your image before you send it. These include rainbows, crowns, cat ears, glasses, and much more! There are games which you can play with your friends and the ‘Discover’ feature allows you to catch up on the latest news and follow your favourite celebrities’ day-to-day lives in real-time. The filters feature is one of the main reasons behind the popularity of this app in the teenage age group. Snapchat has a ‘Story’ feature that allows you to add a 24-hour long image or string of images that all of your friends can view at any time, without actively beginning a conversation with you. Many people use the ‘Story’ feature to show off what they have been doing during the day – whether this is attending a cool party, playing with their pet at home, or heading to the park.
How do I set up an account?
You first have to download the app via the iOS store for apple phones or the google play store for android. You will need an email to register, then create a password. Your phone will be linked up to the app via your phone number and this will be verified to check you aren’t a bot.
What do I need to keep an eye on?
Minimum Age Range
The minimum age range for Snapchat is 13 years old. Snapchat requires users to enter their date of birth before signing up and bars users below this age from creating an account.
You can change your privacy settings in the app by logging on and clicking the emoji in the top left corner of the screen, then selecting the gear image on the top right corner of the screen. Scroll down the settings options to the ‘Who Can…’ options. Next to the ‘Contact Me’ section change ‘Everyone’ to ‘My Friends’. Next to the ‘View My Story’ section change the default option to ‘Friends Only’ This ensures that only your child’s personal contacts are able to send images and messages. Snapchat requires you to scan a code in person, have a number saved in your mobile, or directly type in a username to ‘add’ someone as a friend and begin contacting them, which makes it more difficult for your children to be contacted by strangers on this app.
Snapmaps is a feature on Snapchat that is most likely to cause concern for parents. This feature allows the app to track where your account is and will show an emoji version of the account on a realtime map. Your child’s contacts will be able to pull up the map by swiping downwards on their screen while the app is open and track where they are and when they were last ‘seen’ by the app. You can combat this by returning to Settings and next to the ‘See My Location’ tab, change the option to ‘Ghost Mode’. This will stop location sharing on this app.
Although Snapchat has an automatic disappearing feature on images sent between users, images can be screenshotted before they are removed from the app so caution should be advised on what is sent.
Time on the app
Social media by nature can be addictive and can then become a huge drain on your child’s time and attention. Emphasise the importance of face to face communication and the satisfaction that social relationships outside of the digital sphere hold for your child. If your child seems over-reliant on this form of communication, take time to discuss their worries and deal with the situation in a calm, caring manner.
Snapchat Etiquette for Parents
Teaching your child good digital etiquette and emphasising the potential permanency of conversations online is important.
- Remind them that it is always good to discuss difficult or potentially volatile conversations in person, rather than online.
- Emphasise that respecting others’ privacy is as important online as it is in person. They should not share their friend’s secrets or share anything sent to them with others that would violate another’s privacy. Teaching your child the value of respecting others in the digital sphere is an important life skill for children to learn.
- Learning when is the right time to leave a conversation digitally is also a good skill to teach your child, as it is easy to type a message in the heat of the moment and then regret it!
- It is worth discussing with your teen that sending inappropriate images on Snapchat is never a good idea. Images can be saved all too easily in this app. A conversation with your child that underlines that anyone requesting such images does not have your teen’s best interest at heart is an essential conversation to have with your teenager.
Do not be afraid to allow your child (once at an appropriate age) to explore social media. Our children are growing up to be extremely digitally savvy. They will naturally want to explore what is out there and connect digitally with their friends on new and exciting apps. Digitally safe children are children who are not afraid to share their online experiences with their parents. Be open to learning about new technologies that they are interested in sharing with you, while consistently teaching your children to remain respectful of themselves and others online.
More information on this topic:
Parents Ultimate Guide to Snapchat: https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/parents-ultimate-guide-to-snapchat
Things to teach your kids about Digital Etiquette: https://www.verywellfamily.com/things-to-teach-your-kids-about-digital-etiquette-460548
Snapchat Privacy Settings: https://support.snapchat.com/en-US/a/privacy-settings2