Experts in digital safety
Snapchat is a chat service that sends self-destructing messages. Users send text messages or photos to other members, which are supposed to disappear within seconds of receipt. Unfortunately, images shared don’t always disappear and may leave your child open to humiliation, bullying, blackmail or worse. Here’s everything parents and guardians need to know about Snapchat and its potential risks for teens.
Snapchat: a threat to kids?
Snapchat has seen a huge increase in popularity amongst teens; it is now one of the most used apps worldwide. In 2021, Qustodio insights revealed that Snapchat was teens’ second-most popular social app in terms of time spent, with kids using it for 71 mins/day on average.
As kids spend an increased amount of time on Snapchat, they run more risk of being exposed to many of the problems the app poses, such as sexually suggestive images and texts.
What are the risks of Snapchat?
Because pictures, videos, and messages (“Snaps”) on Snapchat are quickly deleted, it’s easy for children to post inappropriate content, or be asked to send it over the app. This means children can easily practise “sexting”, including sending nude pictures, sexually inappropriate texts, or explicit videos.
Children could easily come across potentially upsetting or inappropriate pictures and messages, or be asked to send across their own. Once a Snap is opened, it deletes forever, which means it’s hard for parents or guardians to be alerted to this kind of content.
When private becomes public
Snapchat’s own parents’ guide warns “although [images] are designed to disappear in 10 seconds or less, there is no guarantee.” Snapchat’s features means that many teens are sharing private images of themselves believing only the recipient will ever see them.
Teens are often impulsive, meaning they may not think twice about sending over an inappropriate image at the time – only later coming to regret the consequences.
Unfortunately for cases like this, images or texts can’t be unsent and the tech savvy have found easy exploits and ways to keep them. A private photo can easily be screenshot and leaked online, with the potential to be sent to hundreds, if not thousands of internet users around the world – and once it’s on the internet, it’s there forever.
How your child can be exploited
Shocking cases like that of Amanda Todd and the more recent Nth Room case in South Korea show how vulnerable teens are: an image shared can lead to blackmail and worse. While Snapchat is designed to be used with friends, teens can easily find strangers online from a username being shared. They may have no idea who is behind the profile, and be coerced into sharing sexual material which can later be used as a bargaining chip.
How to help keep your child safe on Snapchat
If you have multiple devices and your kid has their own phone, tablet or computer you need to keep talking to them about online safety.
- The best way to protect your kid is by maintaining dialogue; show interest and be supportive so that they can tell you when something troubles them.
- Explain that anything they share online can become public and that they can come to you with any problems.
- If you feel your child is not ready for Snapchat, or you decide it’s not worth the high risk level for your family, a tool such as Qustodio can help. It allows apps like Snapchat to be blocked on your child’s devices.
Digital wellbeing applications such as Qustodio help parents see which apps are being used, and for how long. Parents and guardians can also be alerted to more risky applications, such as messaging or photo sharing apps, as well as understanding what websites are being visited. These features are designed to keep you informed and your child safe.