Snapchat is one of the most popular messaging platforms used by teenagers, ranking as the seventh most used app amongst younger demographics worldwide. If you have a teenager with a smartphone there’s a high probability that they’re already using Snapchat, or that they’ll eventually express an interest in downloading it.
Our comprehensive Snapchat app review will help parents to navigate the decision of whether or not to allow their child to have a Snapchat account by providing answers to frequently asked questions and shedding light on the dark sides of this social media sensation.
What is Snapchat and how does it work?
“Snapchat is about communicating with friends and family, living in the moment, and having fun” .
Snapchat is a smartphone application that allows users to share time-limited photos and videos. The sender can decide whether the image ‘disappears’ after a specified number of seconds once opened (a feature the app creators refer to as ‘ephemerality’) or remains on screen until the recipient taps out of it. The transitory aspect of the app is intended to “mirror real-life interactions” and alleviate “reputation anxiety or image-curation fatigue” .
Why do teens like Snapchat so much?
Teens are drawn to Snapchat because it enables them to communicate with their network of friends in a unique and playful way. They can upload daily stories, send still images, videos, or filtered selfies to their friends, and engage in personal conversations or group chats.
Are there risks associated with Snapchat?
There are certain risks associated with Snapchat, most of which are characteristic of any social media application. These include but are not limited to location tracking and sharing, unwanted contact from strangers, cyberbullying, unsolicited sexual images, and exposure to harmful or upsetting content. In consideration of these potential risks, the minimum age for setting up an account is 13. However, Snapchat lacks a stringent age verification process and it’s fairly easy for children to circumvent this by entering a false date of birth.
There have been recent cases of young adults sending some truly disturbing videos via Snapchat, ranging from severe animal cruelty, drug usage, and drunk-driving, through to murder confessions and mass shootings. Alarmingly, some of these videos were uploaded by idolised and adored celebrities with large social media followings.
This sort of harmful material contributes to a toxic and dangerous selfie culture and risks skewing an adolescent child’s understanding of social norms made evident by a recent increase in selfie-related accidents and deaths.
Snapchat App Review: The Dark Side of Social Media
While the fleeting nature of Snapchat messages is widely thought to decrease risk, in practice it can actually encourage users to share pictures containing violent, sexual, or illegal content . The notion that an image or message cannot be captured or redistributed causes some teenagers to feel uninhibited and send images or messages that they would not otherwise send.
Yet, as with any new media platform, tech-savvy teens were quick to find a way around these time limitations, and it is now common knowledge that even time-limited snaps can be captured if the recipient is quick to screenshot it. This ‘loophole’ can be used to capture embarrassing or unflattering selfies and compromising material of a sexual or illegal nature.
When this happens it can become a serious digital ownership concern, as the sender neither consented nor intended for the recipient to come into permanent possession of the image. In some instances, the recipient will either threaten to redistribute the image on social media or they will actively choose to do so. Depending on the nature of the image this can constitute deliberate defamation, image-based abuse, or cyberbullying.
Snapchat App Review: Parental Recommendations
If used responsibly and with privacy settings in place, Snapchat can be a healthy and safe way for teenagers to communicate with their friends. We recommend that you double-check your child’s in-app safety settings and ensure that the location tracking service is set to private, or “ghost mode”.
It’s also a good idea to get involved in your teenager’s social media networking. You may want to monitor their device, or simply have regular conversations with them about their digital footprint and the importance of getting consent from someone before sharing an image of them online.