Snapchat was released in 2011 and has influenced how we interact across many of the big social media platforms today. Features such as short form videos (24 hour Snap Stories), image filters and augmented reality tools have transformed the way Instagram, Facebook and even TikTok have progressed their platforms.
Snapchat’s rise to popularity was due to its simple technology where users could send a single photo (Snap) that was viewable for 1 to 10 seconds. It quickly became a space known for people wanting to send more risky images, including nudes, with the theory that images disappear from the recipient’s view after being opened. As you’ll discover in this article, posting is always permanent and more eyes may be on your profile than you think.
Today, Snapchat delivers on all aspects of social networking and has become the social platform of choice for many young teens.
1. FAMILY CENTER
Snapchat’s latest feature, Family Center, provides an opportunity for you to keep an eye on your child’s interactions and support them in developing their digital wellbeing, while respecting their privacy and allowing them some freedom online. Through Family Center, a parent, guardian or trusted adult can connect with their teen on Snapchat, view who their teen is friends with, and see who their teen has been chatting with. It’s important to note, the content of conversations will not be revealed, and your teen’s friends list will remain private to everybody else.
Family Center has been designed to cultivate trust and collaboration, and to reflect the relationship between trusted adults and their teens in the real world. In the real world, parents and guardians know who their teens are friends with, but are not privy to the details of every conversation. Parents, guardians and trusted adults will also have the opportunity to support their child by reporting abuse. Stay tuned for more features in Family Center in the coming months.
How to set up Family Center:
Step 1: Set up your own Snapchat account. You will need to have your own account to set up Family Center.
Step 2: Connect with your teen on Snapchat.
Step 3: Send an invite to join Family Center. They will need to accept the invite within 24 hours. You can only send an invite if you are a parent/guardian/trusted adult aged 25 years or older, and you can only invite teens aged 13 to 18 years.
Snap streaks or “streaks” has gamified the way users engage with their friends. Streak scores have generated ‘social currency’ and encourages users to return to the app daily. 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 and communicate through snaps with friends. There is mounting pressure on adolescents and young users of Snapchat to maintain and exceed streak scores, with some users taking to the online world to boost their highest streak. A lapse in a streak can be equivalent to breaking a friendship and the higher the snap streak, the greater the pressure is to keep it going.
Talk to your teens about how this feature advantages Snapchat and how it might affect friendships. Understanding these things can help them make conscious choices about their habits. Some suggested conversation starters:
- Why might Snapchat want to you interact with it daily?
- What might you do or say if you or a friend break a streak? What would be an appropriate way to react?
- How can you have a healthy digital balance when it comes to Snapchat streaks?
3. SNAP MAPS & GHOST MODE
When Snapchat released its in-app location tracker there were immediate concerns raised among the safety and privacy of its users. Snap Maps plot a user’s exact location onto a map every time they are using the platform. This means friends and other Snapchatters may see where they are and even who they are with. The good news is, Snapchatters can take control and hide their location by setting Ghost Mode to ‘on’.
How to activate Ghost Mode:
Step 1: Open Snapchat and navigate to ‘Settings’
Step 2: Scroll down to ‘Privacy Controls’
Step 3: Select ‘See My Location’ and ensure that Ghost Mode is switched to ‘On’. This will show your location status as ‘Only Me’.
Step 4: While you are here, we recommend adding additional layers of privacy by ensuring that who can ‘Contact Me’ and ‘View My Story’ is set to ‘My Friends’ and that ‘See me in Quick Add’ is switched off.
Conversation starters for Parents/Teens:
- How could sharing your location on Snapchat put you, your friends and your family at risk?
- What could you say to a friend who is pressuring you to switch Ghost Mode off, so they can see your location?
- Have you ever had random people to try to add you on Snapchat? How could you avoid this?
- What would you do If you ever felt uncomfortable, worried or upset while using Snapchat?
4. 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 if users do not understand this feature, they may be exposing themselves to people they don’t know or unwanted friendship requests.
How to update your Quick Add settings:
- Click on the cog wheel in the 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’.
Long gone are the days of Snapchat being used just to connect you and your friends. Discover allows you to explore channels from users who have set their accounts to Public. Snapchat Discover is all about keeping you up-to-date on current events, pop culture, and more. 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 this can be 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 to 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 that would breach user guidelines you can report users or specific content.
To report a Story on Discover:
Step 1: Press and hold the Snapchat that is inappropriate.
Step 2: 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.
6. MY EYES ONLY
For users who want to keep things extra private (i.e. 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.
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.
Conversation Starters for Parents/Teens:
- How might somebody record your snaps without your knowledge?
- Do you think it is kind to record somebody’s snaps without their knowledge?
- Why should we always ask for permission before recording or sharing images of others?
- What can you do to prevent private images being recorded without your knowledge?
- What information and images should you avoid sharing in your snaps?
- What could you do if you found out somebody was recording snaps without others knowing?
Cyber Safety Project can help you create positive online experiences in your home.
- Our Family Digital Use Agreement supports you to work together as a family to establish your digital use guidelines.
- My First Phone Agreement has been created to prepare you and your children and establish a proactive plan when they receive their first phone or digital device.
- Our online family learning platform provides ongoing support and training for managing digital devices, screen time and creating family protocols for digital use in the home.
Author: Sam Macaulay | Co-founder, Cyber Safety Project