Tag Archives: internet safety

Parents Guide to Snapchat

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.

Saved Snaps

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: 

Net Aware: https://www.net-aware.org.uk/networks/snapchat/

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

Safer Internet Day: A Better Internet Starts With You

Safer Internet Day aims to not only create a safer internet but also a better internet, where everyone is empowered to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively.

Safer Internet Day aims to reach out to children and young people, parents and carers, teachers, educators and social workers, as well as industry, decision makers and politicians, to encourage everyone to play their part in creating a better internet.

By celebrating the positive power of the internet, the 2018 Safer Internet Day theme of “Create, Connect and Share Respect: a better internet starts with you” encourages everyone to join the global movement, to participate, to make the most of the internet’s potential to bring people together.

Digital Parenting - Safer Internet Day 2018 film for parents and carers from UK Safer Internet Centre on Vimeo.

Parents and carers play a crucial role in empowering and supporting children to use technology responsibly, respectfully, critically and creatively, whether it is by ensuring an open dialogue with their children, educating them to use technology safely and positively, or by acting as digital role models.

The UK Safer Internet Centre have created some fantastic resources we wanted to share with you that are worth discussing with your young people. 

For more information you can visit the UK Safer Internet Website for lots of free resources.

Parents’ Week. What’s the Point?

Parents Week logo 2016

This week we’ve been celebrating Parents’ Week. This is an important week in the Parenting NI calendar every October as it gives us the opportunity to highlight the important roles parents play in their children’s lives.

The week also focuses on the need for support for parents. We know that when parents are supported, outcomes for children and young people improve. At a time when pressures and challenges for families are ever increasing, we feel it’s important to ensure parents know there is support available to them and that it is ok to ask for help.

As you all know, this year our focus for Parents’ Week has been ‘Parenting in the Digital Age’. The reason we chose this issue as our theme is because we have been hearing from parents that use of digital technology has posed unique challenges when it comes to parenting.

As part of the week we wanted to give you idea of the types of cases Parenting NI hear from parents regarding digital technology through our Helpline, Counselling and Parenting Programmes.

Sharing Images
A 15 year old girl sent a revealing photo of herself to her boyfriend, innocently thinking that this would be an image that would be kept between them. When the relationship broke down, as teenage romances often do, the boy decided to circulate the image round the classroom. The image then started appearing on various social media accounts, some accounts where even set up pretending to be the girl.

This caused the teenage girl great distress. Feeling alone and that her friends had even turned on her, she finally got the courage to tell her mum what had happened.

At this point mum contacted Parenting NI really concerned about the impact it was having on her daughter and their relationship. As the girl was under 18 the PSNI had to be contacted and the images were eventually removed and those involved were cautioned.

This is something which is happening regularly for young people and so it is important for us to remind our children that sharing images of children under 18, even if it’s you, is illegal and could have serious consequences.

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Mental Health
A dad contacted Parenting NI worried about how his 13 year old daughter had become depressed. He explained that any time he and his partner had tried to talk to her about what was wrong she became really withdrawn and didn’t want to talk about it, usually ending up with the daughter locking herself in her room.

After coming to some Face2Face sessions at Parenting NI with her dad, the young girl revealed that she had been supporting a friend online who was expressing mental health difficulties. This friend had been self harming, and using a pro-self harm social media page to post images of what she was doing. The 13 year old had not known where to turn, so decided she would do her best to encourage her friend not to harm herself. In her desire to try and support her friend this was having a knock on effect on the girls own mental health, causing her to be withdrawn from her family, friends and things she used to like doing.

The girl and her dad are now communicating better and her friend has been able to get the support she needs to get better.

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The parents over a 14 year old boy were noticing that he was receiving post with random gifts which he was hiding in his bedroom. The gifts ranged from aftershave to video games, but when they found some designer underwear and other inappropriate gifts they became very suspicious and worried.

With some guidance from Parenting NI’s Helpline mum and dad sat their son down for a chat one evening to let him know they knew about the packages he was receiving. The boy eventually admitted that he had made a new “friend” on a gaming site he had been playing on in the evenings and that this friend had started sending him gifts because he had helped him complete some really difficult levels on the game and he wanted to say thank you. The boy’s parents were really concerned that he had given out their address to a stranger. After some further conversation, the boy revealed that his online friend started asking for pictures in return for the gifts, and wanted to video chat with him or maybe even meet in person.

Parenting NI was able to support the parents of the 14 year old boy to report the particular user that had been sending the gifts to their son and open up communication within the family.

These are all examples of scenarios which we help to support parents with through our services. The intention of sharing them with you isn’t to frighten you or cause you to disengage further from what your child is doing online, but rather to show that this is the reality. These are the sort of issues our young people are experiencing, and therefore the kinds of things we as parents, and as professionals working with families need to be aware of to be able to support them the best we can.

The message we want all parents to know is you are not alone, everyone struggles with parenting from time to time, support is available and it’s ok to reach out for help no matter what issue it is you may be facing.

Find out more about Parenting NI services:

Parents Helpline Face to Face Support Parenting Programmes Parental Participation Employee Wellbeing

You can also donate to Parenting NI to help us keep our services for parents going. Even a small amount can help us with providing counselling and parenting programmes across Northern Ireland which make a massive difference to families lives.

Donate Now

Play Your Part, Share A Heart

Today is Safer Internet Day which sees thousands of organisations and people across the UK get involved to help promote the safe, responsible and positive use of digital technology for children and young people.

This years theme is “Play Your Part for a Better Internet”. The UK Safer Internet Centre are encouraging everyone to play their part by sharing a heart today. Using the heart, a universal sign for love, to promote respect and kindness online this Safer Internet Day.

We’ve used #ShareAHeart to write some positive messages for parents. Take a look at the gallery below.

If you would like support around internet safety and your child’s internet use please get in touch and call us on 0808 8010 722.

Information for Parents and Carers