Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About: Snapchat

Week 3: Snapchat

We’re in our third week of the series Apps Every Parent Needs to Know About and this week, we’ll cover a familiar app – Snapchat. (To read previous weeks, click here.)

Today’s app: Snapchat

Snapchat, like our previous reviews, is rated 12+ for the same reasons as the others (noticing a theme here?) for a variety of “Infrequent/Mild,” (emphasis mine) sex and suggestive themes.


Snapchat’s Purpose (according to their Community Guidelines – emphasis theirs)

Snapchat is about sharing moments and having fun. Our goal in creating these rules is to accommodate the broadest range of self expression while balancing the need for Snapchatters to be able to use our service safely and enjoyably.

And Snapchat lays out the basic rules:

Don’t send people Snaps they don’t want to receive—especially if the Snap is mean.

Be thoughtful about what you Snap and whom you send it to. It’s okay with us if someone takes a screenshot, but we can’t speak for you or your friends. Snapchat attempts to detect screenshots and notify the sender, but it doesn’t always work perfectly – and your friend can always capture the image with a camera.

Keep it legal. Don’t use Snapchat for any illegal shenanigans and if you’re under 18 or are Snapping with someone who might be: keep your clothes on!

What not to Snap:

  • Pornography

  • Nudity or sexually suggestive content involving minors (people under the age of 18)

  • Minors engaged in activities that are physically dangerous and harmful

  • Invasions of privacy

  • Threats

  • Harassment or bullying

  • Impersonation

  • Self-harm

Privacy: Snapchat’s user interface allows you to set privacy preferences as far as who sees your snaps (a picture or video that is sent privately or posted to someone’s “Story,” which is similar to a Facebook feed), whose snaps you see, and allows you to block users. There are ads (and sometimes, they aren’t meant for a 12-year old audience…more on that later) and also note that there are options to clear chats and browser data–a place someone can erase their history from being seen.


The Good: Like most social media, teens and younger adults first started using the app long before their parents. Eventually, either through curiosity or desire, more and more parents and older adults are signing up for accounts. I won’t lie–I first signed up as an alternative way of communicating with and keeping tabs on some of the teens in our youth group, but now that friends my age are on it, I’m enjoying watching snaps of new babies, mothers at hockey games, and adults trying to be funny (myself included). We’ve used it in our youth group as a way of telling students about upcoming events or information (and we can see when/if they watch it). So, Snapchat can be a great alternative to texting.

The Bad: The misnomer about Snapchat is that once a snap is gone, it’s gone for good. However, Snapchat makes clear in their Terms of Service that at any time, they can store or use any picture or video. In addition to that, the receiver of a snap can also save a copy of the picture or a screen grab of the video and shows you (most of the time–they admit they’re not flawless) when someone has taken a screen shot of something you posted. And sometimes, kids post dumb stuff…like their phone numbers, or videos of their friends snorting sugar but it looks like cocaine if you didn’t know, or just…dumb stuff..Publicly (these are all screen grabs I took a few weeks ago while planning this series and only included students in different youth groups I know, and nobody seems to mind…)


A simple web search will show you plenty of horror stories of kids (and parents) that have been bullied, hurt themselves, hurt others, or committed suicide after misusing Snapchat.

Advertising that is NOT Kid-Friendly: As mentioned earlier, there are ads for various events and websites. Some ads are hidden in live events (the Iowa Caucus was a good example–lots of live scenes of people showing up to vote intermingled with candidate ads) where as some advertising comes in the form of “Channels” and are updated daily by media brands we’re used to seeing (magazines, cable channels, and the like–see below. These are a few I just captured today). Remember, no matter what privacy settings you have enabled or what age you select, these ads are shown to everyone.



What you need to know: 

We’ve talked about how most parents restrict app download for teens to the 12+ and under rating. This gives us a false sense of security.

Last week, a woman named Alyssa commented on the Apps article on

I feel like I’m pretty careful with my kids and their devices, but a few days ago, I let my ten-year-old daughter convince me to let her download on our iPad because several of her friends (who are also good kids with strict-ish parents) have it. She spent a little time on it and found her friends to follow, but hadn’t posted anything, and then didn’t look at it again all weekend.

This morning I read your email/blog and couldn’t believe the timing. My first instinct was to go delete the app before she woke up, but your sentence about not stealing their phones and deleting apps and having a conversation instead really stood out. So while she was eating breakfast, I mentioned the app and how I read that it’s really not for kids and you’re supposed to be at least 12 (which I am kicking myself for not even noticing that part, let alone the 18+), and right away she said, “Yeah, let’s delete it. I think there’s some stuff on there I shouldn’t see anyway.”

I think she must have already had some guilt about it and we had a good little chat about apps and life. Later, I went into the settings before deleting, and she did have it set as public! Ah!

So anyway, instead of beating myself up about this total mommy fail, I wanted to take the time to say THANK YOU for this wake up call and reminder to not get lax about all this stuff. You probably saved my daughter from some things she didn’t need to see and/or hear, and helped me remember to be more in tune with what’s happening on those screens.

Snapchat is not evil. And maybe it’s okay for your kids to have it–that’s up to you and your kids to decide. So instead of locking their phones away, deleting every app, use this opportunity to talk to your kids about how they engage with Snapchat. Ask some questions.

  • Have you heard about Snapchat? Have you ever used it? If you have, what have you seen?
  • Are there any kids in your school who have had rumors spread about them because of something that was shared because of Snapchat or social media?
  • Do you think Snaps ever totally disappear?
  • What are the benefits of using Snapchat? What are the risks?

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Learn more about the book Five Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex.

5 Things Every Parent Needs to Know About Their Kids and Sex

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, hateful or rude. Let's be grown ups here!

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