The little yellow icon with a cute white ghost icon [aka Snapchat] was released in 2011 and has transformed how we interact across many of the big social media players today. The features that Snapchat have slowly introduced have been picked up by Instagram and Facebook such as Snap Stories, photo filters and augmented reality tools. Its rise to popularity was due to it’s simple technology where users could send a single photo (Snap) that existed for 1 to 10 seconds. This theoretically disappears after being viewed. As we have learned everything can be permanent. Today Snapchat delivers on all aspects of a social networking and has now become social platform of choice for many young teens.

Snapchat’s strategy to lour users to the platform (of which most have been carefully designed to acquire the attention) have been created to promote regular use and the need for users to return to the app on a regular basis. After all this is how Snapchat makes their money – through users viewing advertising material.

Here we take you through FIVE must know features that have established Snapchat as the market leader of social networking around the world.

Snap streaks or “streaks” has turned Snapchat into a game and is generated ‘social currency’ between two individual users mounting pressure as user pair streak scores continues to grow on a daily basis.

The premise of a Snapchat streak is simple, you and a friend each snap each other back once a day within a twenty-four hour period. After three days of back and forth snapping, you’ll receive a small flame icon, along with a new number 3 next to that friend. This represents three days of ‘snapping’ back and forth between users. Your Snapchat streak will continue to increase as you return to the app daily to manager your streaks and ensure you continue the streak with each of your friends.

Many adolescents and young users of Snapchat have become obsessed with maintaining their Snapchat streaks. With some users taking to the online world to boost of there highest streak (1400 is the highest we have heard). A lapse in a streak can be equivalent to breaking a friendship and the higher the snap streak gets the greater the pressure is to keep it going. The growing concern here is the culture developing which passively pressures users to remain active users – daily.

YOLO is an anonymous messaging/anonymous questioning app that can be connected a your Snapchat account.The key issue with Yolo is anonymity. With Yolo App becoming appealing to teen, it provides a platform for them to ask questions they would normally be too embarrassed to ask. The anonymity aspect encourages people to ask questions they might not normally ask face to face and for the most part, this to have been used positively. Friends can answer the question anonymously and vice versa. This is where banter and humour is suppose to ensue, however the lack of accountability and total anonymity has also promoted misuse of this feature with many users on the receiving end of hurtful or inappropriate questions. Our core part of our work here at the Cyber Safety Project has been through request for support for school age students to understand, manage and bounce back from issues created by Yolo users.

Snap Maps
When Snapchat released its in app, real time location tracker there were immediate concerns raised among the safety and privacy of it’s users. Snap Maps, plots a user’s exactly location onto a map every time they are using the platform. This means friends and other Snapchatters can see where they are and even who they are with. The good news is, Snapchatters can choose exactly who can see their, if at all, and can change this setting at any time.

Activate Ghost Mode: Allowing users to see where their friends are in real time is a very appealing feature for teens. Snap Maps is incredibly accurate showing the exact location on an interactive map. As parents of young users of Snapchat and therefore Snap Maps there are a few preventative measures we recommend reviewing and putting into action:

  • Choose your location setting: Using Ghost Mode and switching this on will make your location invisible to all of your ‘friends’ on Snap Maps.
  • Discuss why we do not share location information with people we do not know in real life – review Snapchat friends together and determine who is known vs unknown.
  • Location sharing services (not just Snap Maps) can give other users a clear picture of the places you regularly visit (home, school, etc.). Ask you children “Is this information you want to share with others?”
  • If you choose to share a story using the ‘Our Story’ feature ANYONE can view that story regardless of the private sharing setting you choose for Snap Map.

Quick ADD
Quick Add on Snapchat is similar to the suggested friends feature on Facebook, whereby Snapchat suggests ‘friends’ you might like to add, based on friends of friends. This means you appear as a suggested friend to other people. This is a great strategy for increasing your Snapchat friendship pool very quickly – which is obviously a red flag for us here at the Cyber Safety Project. Unfortunately, Quick Add with Snapchat means that if users do not understand this feature, they may be exposing themselves to people they don’t know or unwanted friendship requests. To update your Quick Add settings click on the cog wheel top right hand corner, scroll down to the “Who Can” section, and tap ‘See Me in Quick Add’. On the Quick Add screen, turn the Show me in ‘Quick Add option off’.


Discover allows you to explore channels from established publishers who curate their own content. Snapchat discover is all about keeping you up-to-date on current events, pop culture, and more. Long gone are the days of Snapchat being used just to connect you and your friends. Now you can get the lowdown on breaking news,  events, and celeb gossip at your fingertips. On the Discover screen you can watch your friends’ Snapchat Stories, Publish your own Stories, Shows, and Our Stories. Given the popularity of Snapchat, appearing in the Discover section can mean world wide exposure and therefore the motivation to submit content to Our Story on Snapchat Discover. Given the Snapchat Discover is completely user generated, it is important to understand that if you are allowing your young people at home use Snapchat, they may be exposed to content, images and video material that is inappropriate or may not align with your values.

If you see something inappropriate on  Snapchat Discover or Snapchat Our Story, report it!
To report a Story on Discover…
> Press and hold the Snapchat that’s inappropriate
> Tap the white flag icon to report to alert Snapchat to this content



Empowering the user to report is not just a feature on Snapchat. It’s across all social media and online gaming networks. Creating safe communities online starts with the users who engage within it. We must encourage everyone in our online community to call out, moderate and report any behaviour that we don’t want to see (including bullying). We have the power to collectively create the online world we want.

Nudes & Sexting

Snapchat is notoriously used by many young people as a method of sending ‘disappearing’ nude or sexual images. Whilst users are now alerted when a Snap has been screenshot, this does not prevent someone from using a secondary device to take a photo or video recording of what is appearing on the receivers end. It is also important to help young people understand that Snapchat will keep a copy of these images or videos within the memories section of their Snapchat account.

My Eyes Only

For users who want to keep things extra private (ie. if parents or partners check/review accounts) ‘My Eyes Only’ on Snapchat allows you to move your Memories to ‘My Eyes Only’. This area of Snapchat is password protected.

Author: Sam Macaulay | Co-founder Cyber Safety Project