A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat

Snapchat 101

a parent's guide to snapchat

We get the allure of social media. Facebook and Instagram are a great way of keeping in touch with friends and family. Most of us have accounts, have gone through an addiction phase, and now check our mobile apps anywhere from sporadically to regularly.

But Snapchat is another story—one parents generally don’t understand.

Embraced by teens and perhaps your kids, Snapchat is a free picture and video app that enables you to send pictures and videos to your friends that delete within seconds. It’s also a messaging app, where you can take a snap, doodle a message, and send. Snapchat stories are collections of photos that last 24 hours before deleting. When you see kids taking ridiculous selfies and then tapping their phone, they’re likely sending a Snapchat.

Users like that it’s realtime. You take the pictures within the app and send; these aren’t yesterday’s or last week’s photos that you’ve filtered and edited until you look just right. Snaps are spontaneous and largely silly, something that’s hugely appealing to kids—they love the ephemeral self-expression. Unlike Instagram or Facebook, there are no ‘likes’ or comments to worry about, so there’s no competitive component.

While users are legally required to be at least thirteen years of age, our informal survey reveals it is widely used by children in elementary schools. We wouldn't send our kids to the beach not knowing how to swim, so we try our best to make sure they stay safe online. The best way is always to keep the dialogue open and guide our children to use best practices about being a good internet citizen.

Here are a few things to discuss with your junior Snapchatter:

While the pictures and videos delete within seconds, a screenshot is forever. Yes, the idea is that Snapchat images go poof, but if the receiver takes a screenshot or takes a photo with another device, it is apt to have a longer life than intended.

Don’t add anyone to your Snapchat list that you don’t know. Snapchat is intended for use between friends. To send snaps, each user has to accept the other into their contact list in order to communicate. A good rule of thumb for kids: don’t accept anyone you wouldn’t have a conversation with.

Kindness matters. Treat others like you want to be treated, on Snapchat and every other social media platform. The only thing worse than a bully is an internet bully who is meaner and bolder behind the comfort of their screen.

Keep the dialogue open and non-judgmental. If you approach things from a level of curiosity rather than running a social media dictatorship, kids are more likely to respond. If they do run into trouble, it’s more likely they will come to you than if you forbid, shun or shame them. It goes without saying but we’ll say it: if a snap is inappropriate, the sender should be reported and blocked.

Limit interaction. Set guidelines that work for your family. Screen time and social media platforms are a privilege that shouldn’t be abused, so establish time limits. One SavvyMom we know uses the household rule that at 8 pm all devices are put in a designated drawer until the next morning. After all, we weren’t allowed to talk on the phone all night when we were kids, either!

It’s a new world and tough for parents to keep current on constantly evolving platforms. But Snapchat is an exceedingly popular way our kids communicate—and as parents we need to learn how to speak their language. Have the conversation.

If you’d like to know more, we recommend the Snapchat Guide for Parents and Teachers for further info. 

Tested by Deanna Regan
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First published 2016.03.08

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