Snapchat makes it easy to communicate with friends and groups with photos, text, and videos that “disappear” after viewing. In addition, you can watch videos and content from all over the world. Here we have provided some good advice and useful settings for the app.
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- Snapchat is an app to send messages that disappear after a while
- Can be communicated with a specific user, in groups, or by posting content that becomes available to the whole world
- It is also possible to see content from celebrities, news outlets, and people from around the world via Spotlight – an in-app feature similar to TikTok
- Choose good privacy settings that limit who can contact your child and who can see the content that the children post
- Through the «family Centre,» you can connect the child’s user account to your own with parental settings.
- Consider whether the child’s position should be visible to friends on the snap map or not
Our review of Snapchat
According to the Norwegian Media Authority’s survey (Children and Media: 2022), 78 percent of children between the ages of nine and 18 use Snapchat. That means Snapchat is one of the most used social media among this age group.
Chat and posts
The concept is to send “snaps” to a specific recipient or in groups (up to 100 people in a group). One can also post stories – which is a summary of several images or video clips.
Text in chat disappears automatically (unless you save it). Photos and videos can also be posted in a way that they disappear at the recipient’s end after a while. Or you can choose them to stay.
Account and Friends
Snapchat is free to download and use. However, there is also a subscription you can pay for. To create an account, one needs a full name and date of birth, and then a username and password. Email address or phone number can also be connected to an account.
New friends can be added by searching their names or usernames, or by sharing a Snapcode (scan your friend’s phone). It can be done by sharing profile information from other social media too. It also has something called “Quick Add.” Friend suggestions in “Quick Add” are based on who you are already friends with, who you subscribe to, and other factors.
It can be compared to “people you may know” on Facebook. The disadvantage is that you may end up as a suggestion in others’ friend lists and be contacted involuntarily. This function can be turned off (see further down in the article).
There are options for both voice and video chat (up to 16 people at a time). It is also possible to play various small games with friends.
One of Snapchat’s major and well-developed features is the ability to put filters on the face – put a bunch of beards or hair, get a baby face with a pacifier, turn into a dancing-and-clapping rabbit, or have a monkey plucking lice from your hair. All effects are animated with the face/body of a virtual body in real-time, many of which are both funny and creative. Some offer commercial content and advertising games.
On “Stories,” you can post or watch a summary of photos and videos that others have posted. Here the content can also be enhanced with stickers, text, music, and color filters. Content from influencers to news sites and subscribed people also appears here.
This tab is divided into two. At the top is the content from friends and people you subscribe to. Under “explore,” you automatically get content from all over the world. It is algorithmically controlled based on others you follow, like, and so on. Here children may be exposed to content that is intended for an older target group.
Snapchat also has something called a “Snap Map.” There on a map, you can see where your friends are if they share their locations with you. This feature can be turned off.
Snapchat updates the location on a map every time you log into the app.
On the map, you can also see stories from others based on the area they are in. For example, if you want to see content from people who live in a particular city or a country. The map also shows places like restaurants, shopping malls, doctor’s offices, and so on. You can get directions to those places and opening hours.
Snapchat also has a subscription that you can pay for. You can read more about that here. A disputed possibility is that by this subscription friends can see your child’s movements on a map for the last 24 hours. It can present some privacy challenges when others see where your child’s school and residence are and where the child goes for leisure activities and more.
Last but not least, Snapchat has a feature called Spotlight (similar to TikTok).
Spotlight is a part of Snapchat where you can watch and share short video clips. Popular and reputable video clips can get paid by Snapchat in the form of “Crystals” that can be exchanged for real money. For this, you must have the legal age of maturity or 16 with the consent of a parent or guardian.
Disappearing pictures and video…
When sending a Snap, you can choose how long it will be visible to the recipient. However, it does not prevent the recipient from taking screenshots of the image and then saving or forwarding them. You will receive a notification if the recipient takes a screenshot. But the recipient can also take pictures of the content in other ways – for example, using another mobile.
Snapchat also has features for easy photo and video editing (tap the record button – once for photos and hold for videos). Adjusting sections, and adding web links, music, texts, and stickers. You can also add tags by mentioning other people on Snapchat, marking the location, temperature, weather, etc.
It is not astonishing that Snapchat has become so popular. The service is intuitive to use and makes it easy to stay in touch with friends and classmates. Not least, it is possible to follow famous people from all over the world. But these aspects also mean that children and young people can be exposed to unfortunate content.
Other actors, more child and youth-oriented actors such as Helsesista, Politiets Nettpatruljer, and Ung.no also use Snapchat to reach their audience. However, be aware of impersonating profiles that use the same name as public actors.
Otherwise, it can be positive that Snapchat has communication capabilities in groups/with individuals compared to Facebook and Instagram where many people post content to the masses. The fact that messages/pictures disappear after a while can result in more privacy, but at the same time, it can also make it more difficult to investigate bullying/inappropriate communication afterward.
Snapchat has a conversational robot (artificial intelligence) called “My AI.” It is in the form of an interlocutor which is essentially a computer that answers and asks questions itself. It is possible to hide, but not remove, My AI from the contact list. You have to pay for a Snapchat+ subscription to be able to hide My AI.
However, not everyone has access to My AI. Read more about My AI here. Also, be aware that My AI can give incorrect answers and bad advice. It also collects data from the user.
Snapchat is labeled “Parental Guidance” by PEGI and 12+ years in the App Store.
Parental guidance is used as a tagging tool when the content of the app cannot be considered in advance. On Snapchat, the content changes all the time depending on what users choose to share with others.
The App Store (Apple) justifies the 12+ rating by saying that the content of the app may consist of profanity and coarse humor, drug use, sexual content, and adult themes.
Content with text, video sharing, images, and voice recordings can be positive and constructive or negative and destructive depending on what is said, written, and shared between sender and recipient or distributed publicly to a target group.
Some of the content on Snapchat is algorithmically controlled and children and young people could potentially be exposed to advertising, strong news stories, and harmful content.
In Norway, there is a thirteen-year limit on the use of social media, but parents can give consent on behalf of younger children. It means that the platforms are not allowed to collect and use personal data about the child without the parent’s permission.
However, the terms set an absolute limit of at least 13 years for using the service. Snapchat’s parenting guide states a phrase that is easy to misunderstand: “If you have a child under 13 using Snapchat, please reach out to us with your child’s username and verification of your relationship.” This is not about consent for children under the age of 13 but about Snapchat wanting to delete the account.
We also encourage parents to read the terms and conditions and to familiarize themselves with the privacy statement.
By tapping on the profile picture (top corner of the app) one can choose useful settings on behalf of the children. For example:
- Turn on two-factor authentication: Get a verification code every time you sign in to Snapchat on a new device/location.
- Enable/disable notifications. Does it get a lot of fuss every time someone tags you or that alerts pop up about everything from friend suggestions to birthdays? Turn it off.
- Change who can contact you (snaps, chats, and calls): everyone/my friends.
- Change who can see your story: everyone/my friends/selected friends.
- Adjust who can see your location: my friends/my friends except/only these friends
- Turn off chat location requests.
- Change who can use your cameo selfie in two-person cameos (this is the use of your profile picture superimposed on avatars dancing/doing various actions.
- Ability to delete data such as conversations, search history, contact data and so on.
- Need to change the date of birth. According to Snapchat, this can be done “a limited number of times.”
Own parental settings
Snapchat has its own parental settings, which means that the child’s account is linked to the parent’s Snapchat account. Then as a parent, you can:
- See who your kids have in their contact list on Snapchat
- See who your kids have recently communicated with
- Report users your children are following
- Turn on a content filter that restricts sensitive content
Both you and your child must have to be a Snapchat user. On your account, go into settings and find the “Family Center” under the tab called “Privacy Controls.” You can find this by tapping on the profile picture in the top corner of the screen > then tapping the gear at the top of the screen > privacy controls > the Family Center. Here you can send your child an invitation to have their account managed by you as a parent.
There are also features for reporting, deleting, and blocking users. Hold down the username in their contact list. Select ‘Manage Friendships” and ‘Report,’ ‘Block,’ or ‘Remove Friend.’
Snapchat writes, «When you remove someone from your friends list, they won’t be able to see your private Story, but they’ll still be able to see any public content you post. They may also be able to send you a Chat or Snap, depending on your privacy settings. When you block a friend, they will no longer be able to see your Story, send you Snaps or contact you via Chat.»
In addition, Snapchat will sometimes ask users to check through their friend list and encourage removing those who are not “close friends.” This will appear as a notification in the app. Users can then easily remove Snapchatters that they do not want to be in contact anymore.
It should also be noted that images/texts in chat may disappear. For example, if someone sends something bad, you may want to save that as evidence, you may want to take screenshots of the photo. Read more about how to take screen evidence on different devices.
It is also possible to report images/videos by holding onto the content and selecting reports (the three dots on Spotlight).
Last but not least, «Snapstreak» is its own thing. It is about keeping in touch every day with a friend to get a streak. If you miss one day, you lose the streak, which can be many days and weeks long. Read more about this here.
Special measures for teenagers
Not all of these features are in place yet, but Snapchat has launched its own safety measures for teens. They are as follows:
Pop-up safety warnings: Snapchat adds a feature that sends an alert to teens if they’re contacted by someone they don‘t share mutual friends with. The notification will include an invitation to think twice before engaging with the user and not to start a conversation with anyone they do not trust.
Requirements for multiple mutual friends: Snapchat already requires a 13–to–17–year–old to have multiple mutual friends with another user before they can appear in search results or as a friend suggestion. Now, Snapchat is raising this threshold by requiring a large number of mutual friends relative to the total number of friends a Snapchat user has. The goal is to reduce the possibility of minors being contacted by strangers.
Age-appropriate content experience: Snapchat will provide a more age–appropriate viewing experience on its content platforms. We are a little uncertain about what it means in practice.
New dot system for accounts: As a measure against user accounts that Snapchat believes pose no immediate threat but still violate the platform‘s rules, Snapchat has launched a new dot system (think dots on the driver‘s license). As a result, Snapchat will remove inappropriate content that it detects or that is reported to Snapchat. If an account repeatedly tries to circumvent the rules, the account will be deleted. You can learn more about this on Snapchat‘s pages here.
Netiquette in App: Snapchat creates new in–app content developed with the US–based National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) that helps explain risks and shares important local resources for Snapchat users. This content will appear on the Stories platform and with the user when searching for specific keywords.
Get more tips from Snapchat’s own guide to parents.
(Translated and shortened from Norwegian by Ratan Samadder)