OK – we’ve all heard about Snapchat and know that our kids love it. But how many of us really know how it works? Well, read on. I’ve put together a 5-minute overview that will get you up to speed ASAP. So strap yourself in and let’s get hour heads around this together.
What Is Snapchat?
Snapchat is essentially a messaging app that’s very much designed for capturing life in the moment. Users send fund and spontaneous texts, photos or videos that all disappear after a short period of time. Anything that is sent is referred to as a ‘Snap’. Snaps can be sent to one or more friends.
Now a Snap doesn’t just have to be a Snap. It can be dressed up with test, emojis and doodles (free-form drawings). One can also add filters, lenses and stickers to make Snaps more visually appealing. Geofilters are a particularly popular way to customise Snaps at specific locations and events worldwide. You can even create one for your own event. In fact, my boys inform me that they are essential for anyone having an 18th or 21st birthday party!
One of the biggest differences between Snapchat and its cousins Facebook and Instagram is that there is no ‘Like’ option on Snapchat. This is because Snaps are designed to disappear.
How Big Is Snapchat?
According to the latest available stats there are 158 million daily users on Snapchat, with 2.5 billion Snaps sent every day. It is the 5th most used social media site in Australia with 1 in 6 Aussies using it daily. So it’s worth investing some in!
How Old Do You Need To Be To Use It?
Like most social media platforms, the ‘legal’ age of use for Snapchat is 13, a by-product of US legislation called the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The legislation came into effect in 2000 and is unapologetically committed to giving parents control over what information is collected from their children online.
Now while this legislation is US-based, websites hosted overseas must comply with COPPA if they are directed to children in the US. In effect, if your kids are visiting the same sites that US kids would frequent, then COPPA applies.
However, parenting experts and even the OECD believe that this decision is really best left up to the parents, who should factor in a child’s maturity, resilience and level of responsibility before giving the green light or not, irrespective of age.
Isn’t It Used For Sexting?
When Snapchat first hit our screens in 2011 it was instantly pigeon-holed as a haven for sharing raunchy pictures. Since then it has broadened its offering and now competes in the mainstream social media space alongside apps such as Kik, WhatsApp and Facetime.
However, it still CAN absolutely be used for sexting so please don’t think it is all sunshine and smiles!
How To Interact On Snapchat?
Just like Facebook, when you start out on Snapchat you ‘friend’ people you know. Once you’re established friends, you can then share Snaps. However, there is a ‘follow’ option which allows users to follow celebrities and sporting teams. One of my boys says this can provide great content to on-share with friends!
I’ve Heard Of Stories – What Are They?
Users can compile their Snaps into a Story which has a 24-hour life. This could be a video, one Snap, or hundreds of Snaps. When a Snap is taken, users have the option of adding it to their Story.
Live Stories are a montage of Snaps submitted for Snapchatters from events around the world such as a concert or sporting event.
Is There A Messaging Option On Snapchat?
One-on-one chat is an option on Snapchat. Just like Snaps, chats are cleared when the recipient leaves the chat screen. But be aware – users can choose to save messages they would like to keep.
In 2014 Snapchat introduced a person-to-person payment feature that allows users to transfer money between themselves easily. Currently this is only available to US users over 18. So no need to worry about this in Australia yet. Phew!
What Do I Need To Tell My Kids?
Here are my top tips for helping your kids use Snapchat safely.
Even though Snaps technically disappear, there are a few ways they can remain permanent: the creator could save the Snap before sending it; the viewer could take a screenshot; or anyone could take a picture of the screen with another camera, or use another tool or app to save a copy. So, it is imperative your kids understand to never send anything illegal or that could get themselves or others into trouble. In an ideal world they wouldn’t do this, but sometimes you have to keep the conversation real!
The default ‘My Friends’ setting only allows users to send and receive media from users they have added to their Friends list. I highly recommend that anyone under the age of 18 continue with the setting. Check out this link if you need more help.
Just like any activity on social media, sharing personal information such as phone numbers, home address, name of school or parents’ details could have devastating consequences such as identity theft or even stalking. Please ensure your kids know how to keep their info tight.
Stick to Real Friends
As on all social media platforms, there are ways on Snapchat for your kids to find people they don’t know – and vice versa. Ensure your kids know that is is not OK to meet up with people they meet online. Online only friends are NOT real friends!
I know this might be an embarrassing conversation but you need to have it. Your kids need to know that exchanging nude or explicit images of anyone under the age of 18 – including themselves – is a serious crime. In most states of Australia, anyone caught and charged could be placed on the Sex Offenders Registry. So please ensure they truly understand the consequences here.
If your child’s settings are set to My Friends and they still receive abusive Snaps from another user, get involved! Take a screenshot of the interactions then help your child block the user. You will then also need to report them to Snapchat’s Safety Team.
Well done! You are now ready to enter the world of Snapchat. Remember using the same technology and social media your kids do gives you real insight into their world while earning yourself a bit of tech cred! What are you waiting for? Join up today!