A parent’s guide to social media: Part 4 – Snapchat
By Allison Tait |
Social media - Snapchat

The internet can be a scary place for parents, knowing their kids may be faced with anonymous questions, contact from strangers and cyber bullying. It is more important than ever for parents to be aware of its pitfalls.

We’re delving into the popular photo messaging site – Snapchat.

Snapchat (snapchat.com)





A parent's guide to Snapchat





What is it?

A photo messaging application developed by Stanford University students, Snapchat allows users to take photos, record videos, add text and drawings and send them to a controlled list of recipients. Users set a time limit for how long recipients will be able to view their ‘snaps’ – from 1 to 10 seconds – after which they will be hidden from the recipient’s device and deleted from the Snapchat servers.

How does it work?

Users simply sign up for an account – email address, password, birthday – and then search for ‘friends’ via current contacts. Once you’ve added your friends, it’s simple to take photos or videos using the app’s interface, set the picture time limit and send it off.

Why kids like it

At a technology conference in Berlin recently, venture capitalist and Snapchat investor Bill Gurley explained why he thought so many children gravitate towards the app: “For kids, the internet is increasingly becoming a place that you can’t have fun, that you can’t socialise in the way you want to. I think that is the essence of Snapchat. It’s a platform where they can communicate and have fun without any anxiety about the permanence.”

Lucy Reid, 14, from Milton, NSW, agrees. “I like it because it’s like a snapshot of that person’s life and it’s more interesting than Facebook,” she says. “I am more of a visual person so it suits the way I see the world better than other social media.”

What you need to know

Snapchat requires users to be 13 years or older to create an account.

The biggest drawcard for kids – the fact that images disappear – is also its biggest drawback, according to cyber bullying expert Susan McLean of Cyber Safety Solutions. “Kids believe that the pictures have disappeared forever,” she says. “But they haven’t – they’ve just dissolved off screen – and they can be retrieved.” She points out that 10 seconds is long enough to take an image of the screen with another device, or a screenshot (which is allowed, though Snapchat will notify the sender if a screenshot is taken). Snapchat’s privacy policy says that it can’t guarantee photos won’t still be available in some form after the set time has elapsed.

Don’t forget the basics

In the swirl of ever-changing technology, it’s easy to forget that there are some basic rules every kid needs to know before they venture online in any way.

  • Be careful what you share. Make sure kids, particularly when they’re starting out, know that home addresses, phone numbers, schools and other personal information is off limits online. If they’re asked for them, even at the sign-up stage for an app, they need to double-check with an adult before handing over the details.
  • Age limits matter. Most apps and social media platforms have an age minimum of 13. “This is a legal age,” says Susan. “It’s not decided by the app or the website, but comes out of a law in the US.” That law is the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act. The App Store also imposes its own ratings – and it’s worth noting the 17+ rating on Kik.
  • Parents know passwords. Keep track of your kids’ account information so you can keep an eye on their profiles. Let them know that your intention is not to spy, but to keep them safe.
  • No-one else knows passwords. Remind your kids that passwords and logins are not to be shared with friends, no matter how close. If other kids can log in, there’s a much bigger chance of cyber bullying or other online trouble.
  • Don’t talk to strangers. While many parents have this conversation about the playground, they overlook the importance of it online. Keep an eye on the profiles of those your kids are associating with online and make sure it’s only people they know in real life. If you spot someone you don’t know, ask about them.

This article was written by Allison Tait for Kidspot.com.au and has been adapted for Kidspot.co.nz

Connect with Kidspot:


what's new on kidspot