Snapchat is one of the most popular social networks in the world with users sending over 400 million 'Snaps' every single day.
These short videos or photos can be shared to the world or with friends and have a lifespan of just 1 to 10 seconds after which they'll permanently disappear. It's particularly popular with youngsters thanks to its easy-to-use interface and the quick, throwaway nature of the content that's shared.
Discover how Snapchat works and learn the hazards every parents need to be aware of. For more advice on keeping your children safe online BT recommends visiting Internet Matters, a not for profit e-safety organisation.
Who can get a Snapchat account?
Enter an email, password and select a user name to get started. The account will need to be verified (to check you aren’t a bot) using a phone number or by selecting pictures.
Snapchat has a minimum age requirement of 13 years old, and users who enter a date of birth under 13 can’t set up an account.
Unfortunately, it’s easy to circumvent this using a fake date of birth and – as with Facebook – the service has no way of checking.
To send personal Snaps a phone needs a camera, although Chat messages can be sent without. You don’t need a camera to receive Snaps.
Snapchat needs internet access to work – either over wi-fi or using mobile data.
How do you add friends on Snapchat
To use Snapchat you need to add friends to the app’s contact list. These can be contacts from your phone’s address book, people you’ve found by searching for their user names (such as celebrities), users nearby and contacts made using Snapcode, a scannable barcode unique to each Snapchat user.
Your child can share a Snap or Chat with anyone from their friends list.
By default only users your child is friends with can send them Snaps. If a stranger tries to contact a user your child can choose to add them as a friend or not.
What are the risks of using Snapchat?
Snapchat is all about sharing photos and video, so like Facebook, children need to be careful what they take – and send - photos of.
Because Snapchat photos and videos disappear within seconds, you might think there’s less of a risk. Unfortunately many smartphones have a screenshot facility and there’s nothing to stop the recipient capturing an image of a Snap which will last forever and which can be shared online within seconds.
All social networks have potential problems. Your child could be at risk from bullying from people they connect with, they can be pressured into taking personal photos or they may be exposed to explicit content at an early age.
Social networks are an easy way to connect to people, but as they are essentially anonymous, it’s possible to build up a relationship with a stranger who isn’t who they say they are - for instance an adult posing as a child with the aim of grooming youngsters.
Check out our article Staying safe on social media: Advice for parents to find out more on all the above dangers.
Tips to help your child use Snapchat safely
Restrict your child's visibility on Snapchat by doing three simple things:
1. Limit who can contact your child: Go to the Settings menu (it looks like a cog) and look for Who Can - Contact Me and select My Friends. This means only people your child has added can send them a Snap.
2: Restrict who can see a Story: A Story is a selection of Snaps from the last 24 hours that (by default) anyone your child is friends with can view. To specify exactly who can see it, go to Settings – Who Can - View My Story and use Custom to block specific friends.
3: Quick Add lets you add friends quickly: Turn this off in Settings - Who Can - Show Me in Quick Add and turn it off.
Turn off location services:
Your child can share their location with friends. This could allow your child to connect with total strangers who happen to be in the vicinity.
Go to Settings - Who Can - See My Location and activate Ghost Mode. Finally go to the apps Settings menu, click Manage - Permissions. Look for Location and ensure it's disabled. You may need to go into your phone's general Settings menu to turn it off.
Use the Block functionality:
If someone is upsetting your child you can block them so they can’t contact them. Go to a chat with that friend. Tap the Menu and click Block. Click here for more on Deleting and Blocking. The person blocked won’t be notified.
Make sure Snap Map is turned off:
One of the newer features within Snapchat is something called Snap Map which allows users to see each other on a map and then interact with their Snaps. The idea behind it is that if you're at a concert or large atraction you can experience what's going on from different perspectives.
The problem with this however is that it makes your location visible to others. To make sure it's turned off Swipe down on the Home Screen to access Snap Maps. If your location is turned off you should see the image above. If not go into your phone's settings and disable location access for the Snapchat app.
Report content you're concerned about:
If your child is sent unsuitable content, email safety@Snapchat.com to report it.
Snapchat doesn’t release copies of Snaps, automatically deleting them once they’ve been viewed or expired, while unopened messages are deleted after 30 days.
Talk to your child:
Encourage them to think before they send photos and discuss the consequences. Our article Tips to help children use the internet safely offers advice.
BT Parental Controls
Keeping your child safe online doesn't just include protecting them in the apps they use, it also extends to browsing the internet. This is where BT's Parental Controls can help.
Available for free to all BT's Broadband customers, the Parental Controls feature lets you restrict access to specific sites either permanently or during specific times e.g. when your child is doing homework or in the evenings. Being a network filter, it'll also work on all the devices in your home from smartphones to games consoles as long as they are connected to your BT Hub.
You can choose between four content filters: Light, Medium, Strict and Custom, which include options to block social media websites.