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Socially Savvy: Should Parents Worry about Snapchat?

Should parents worry about Snapchat?
If you’re a parent of a teen or preteen, you should be aware of this photo messaging app!

Should parents worry about Snapchat?If you interact with teenagers, you’ve probably heard of Snapchat. And, if you’re a parent of said teenagers, you should learn about it—Snapchat’s biggest user demographic is between 13 and 23 years old.

Snapchat is a social media tool that allows the user to send a picture, video, or text (known as a “snap”) to their followers. Senders set the amount of time that the image can be viewed—from one to ten seconds—and after that point, the image is deleted from the viewers’ devices. In theory, this seems like a positive step for privacy, and can help alleviate parents’ concerns over images of their children spreading around the Internet.

Why Does Snapchat Appeal to Teens?

Why does this method of communication appeal to your child? Hopefully, you’ve taught your kids the essential safety lessons about online privacy, and are at least aware that certain images should not be shared. However, this is contrary to what kids want to do. They want to be in the moment, sharing their feelings online for all their friends to see. Snapchat also relieves the need for the perfectly framed “selfie”; kids can take a quirky picture of themselves believing that their friends will only be able to view it for a few seconds.

Privacy Concerns and the Myth of the Deleted Snap

There are, however, broader concerns for parents. Viewers can grab a screenshot when the snap arrives, forever storing and sharing it. Because Snapchat delivers a text message to recipients announcing they have a snap to view, recipients can prepare to grab the image or video for storage. In December 2013, Snapchat added a replay feature with its operating system update, allowing users to replay one image from the last 24 hours. Only one replay per day is currently possible with this feature.

Snapchat also explains on its privacy page that the company temporarily collects and stores the snaps until all followers have viewed the snap. Law enforcement has issued subpoenas requiring Snapchat to turn over unopened snaps relevant to a case. In addition, a forensic software company admitted to being able to recover snaps taken on Android, and was working on that same ability with iOS devices.

Certainly there is little stopping a third-party app from providing consumers with the means to store snaps. Therefore, it seems that despite what teens think, Snapchat does not have the ephemeral effect they believe it does. What is a parent to do?

Six Steps for Social Media Safety

First, realize that Snapchat is just a tool that cannot, by itself, turn your kid into a sexter. Any social media platform can be a mechanism that amplifies what your teen wants to share. Talking with your teen about what is and isn’t appropriate is a crucial first step.

Second, prohibiting your child from using Snapchat does not alleviate the problem of privacy concerns. If your child’s friends use it—and with Snapchat sending 350 million photos every day, they probably do—they can easily snap a photo of your child for use.

Third, become socially savvy. Do not cede this ground to your child because you think it’s something for teens. Social media is not complicated; it just seems that way sometimes because each platform is constantly being updated and reinvented. If you need to get started on social media, Amazon has many eBooks that you can instantly download to learn more. My book, Daily Actions for Social Media Mastery, will provide daily steps for you to take to become socially savvy. Stay one step ahead of your teen.

Fourth, make your child socially savvy. Your child absolutely needs to learn how to use social media effectively because as they grow up, they will most likely be networking for the best internships, jobs, and even life partners that way. Preventing your teen from using social media does not prevent worrisome behavior. Talk to your children!

Fifth, monitor your teen’s social media activity. I used to joke with my now-16 year old that I believed in the right to privacy once he reached 18. In reality, I practice the art of amused parent. We joke about some of the snaps he sends (all appropriate, but goofy), and I try not to act like a stodgy worrywart. I admit that finding that balance can be tricky, and each parent will find his or her own way. The important part is to work at it rather than shut down social media for your teen. Having a policy of open communication (without judgment) goes a long way in showing your kids that there’s a healthy balance between what should be public and what should be private.

Sixth, establish a few golden rules (or “guidelines” if you prefer) about social media.

Golden Rule 1: Explain that nothing shared is ever private or completely deleted. Therefore, they should never send a snap that they wouldn’t want you or a future employer finding. Because we do not develop the skill to think in terms of long-term benefits until we are about 25, you may just need to tell your child that this is one rule that must be followed, and can have serious consequences if they do not.

Golden Rule 2: Explain that they should never share an image of another person without that person’s consent. Obviously people who post stories on Facebook about themselves are inviting shares, but snaps assume a level of privacy. They should also learn that sharing embarrassing images is never cool. Reinforce this with a role reversal by asking them how they would feel if others did that to them.

Social media requires an awareness of societal norms and trends that we may not have realized we’d need to follow as our kids grow up. I encourage you to embrace, rather than shut out, social media. While Snapchat might not be your platform of choice, it’s still important to understand. Establish an open communication policy with your child. In the long run, you may find that social media gives you great ways to share memories with your kids as they become busy teens.

About the author

Tara Ross

Tara Ross

Tara Ross is an educator who teaches about how to maximize your potential on social media, empower your goal setting, and develop strategies to achieve location independence. She writes about traveling, social media, and writing at, and travels globally to demonstrate that location independence is not only viable but also necessary to your happiness.

Tara is also a college professor of Political Science and Education, who has taught in the online environment since 2000. She holds a PhD in Educational Leadership, and an MA in International Affairs. She enjoys traveling with her husband, Stan, bringing her laptop, and teaching while exploring.

Together with her husband, Stan, and her two teenage sons, Tara owns Ross and Sons Publishing, an independent book publishing company dedicated to working with authors to help them share their words with the world.

  • melisa

    I am so glad someone has finally explained this to others publicly. I’ve not seen any other articles to date (not that there haven’t been any, I just haven’t seen them) concerning snapchat. I’m so concerned for the youth and the un-accountability this application provides. The stupid mistakes that kids from my generation, making immature, spur of the moment bad decisions didn’t seem to have the same weight of consequences that teens are afforded today. Your post nails a lot of it right on the head, these things don’t just disappear, once it’s out there, it’s out there, and can never be revoked.

    • It can be concerning, and snapchat is not the only one, just the most popular one right now. That will change, though, so the larger point is really explaining the broader issues of privacy and protection.

  • Thanks for the awesome review and eye opener about Snap Chat.I think all teens and even pre-teens should be reminded of the facts about Snap Chat and how it can be a danger to them once the pics are out there

    • Glad you found it eye-opening. I think parents need to be one step ahead of their kids on social media as much as possible. As an author who writes about social, my kids realize that I’m pretty competent on the topic. 🙂 You don’t need to be an author, but reading about the different platforms and trying them out yourself is important to do.

  • Shannon

    Thanks for the heads up, I have never even heard of this.

    • You’re welcome! I am glad you found it helpful. SnapChat is not bad in and of itself, but we just need to communicate with our kids constantly.

  • Toni Khadijah Adams Khan

    Kids should only have emergencies access when away from adult super vision. When at home with parents, the kids can access only those apps that parents have checked and approved for their kids cells.

  • Lindsay Giedosh

    I really feel like social media is getting to be more and more of a problem. It’s too easy to get over-involved with strangers and the world is a very scary place

  • lisa

    I don’t envy parents with young children. Mine are grown with their own children.Luckily, when they were young, all of this wasn’t readily available. You really have to be aware and stay on top of it all to protect them.

  • Andrea Silas

    I have 3 teenage girls and I am ALWAYS concerned about things like this. Thank you for your tips.

  • Melissa S

    Good article, I had heard a little about Snapshot but this article gave me a better understanding of it. I think the golden rules outlined here apply to all social media.

  • Nicole Becker

    I have a teenage son and I worry about ALL social media with him!!! I can’t imagine having a daughter that is a teenager right now!! I would be out of mind. LOL

  • This is such an important topic right now. Kids just don’t get it that, even if they use a pseudonym, all these things leave tracks and can come back to them. With SnapChat in court right now, this post is so relevant right now. Pretty much, don’t put anything where it can be recorded unless you’re 100% certain it’s benign.

  • Jen St Germain Leeman

    This is such a great article. My daughter is turning 10 next month and just starting to show an interest in social media. I really need to start educating myself about how kids are using the different social media platforms.

  • It’s always good to know what’s going on. My young adult children and I love snapchat but just for family and cousins fun. I would be worried if they were young though. Teaching them and just being aware is the smart thing to do. Thanks.

  • Katie Hale

    Interesting information. I truly believe that no matter what the social media forum is, an open relationship with your children can prevent a number of “issues” from occurring.

  • notageek4u

    I actually stalk my nieces and nephews on snapchat. Thankfully, they have settings to where I can see all of their snapchats that they do for the day.

  • Alea Milham

    It is so smart to have ground rules for any social media that children use.

  • Tatanisha Worthey

    Great tips! I’m not even on snapchat yet, but I definitely agree that Parents should be on top of what their kids are doing on social media!

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