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3 minutes reading time
11-17 years
Social Media
Tool description

Snapchat is a free messenger for sending photos and short videos. The special feature: the funny selfie with the bunny ears or similar pictures “disappear” from the recipient’s smartphone after a short time.

In a nutshell:

  • free messenger app for Android or iOS
  • Paid version with additional features: Snapchat+
  • Features: share creative pictures, videos, funny emojis and filters with friends
  • According to provider from 13 years allowed (according to DSGVO from 16 years)
  • Various contact risks, including the location function that enables tracking of one’s whereabouts

What is Snapchat?

With Snapchat, photos and short videos can be sent to contacts as messages or stories. These snaps are only visible for a certain time and “self-destruct” afterwards. The photos and videos can be edited with countless filters. With the “Memories” function, users can also save certain content. In addition to private stories from friends, there is also content from stars and brands. The “Spotlight” function also allows creative short videos to be posted in the TikTok -style. Users can be found via the so-called “Snap Codes” and via their cell phone number if this is activated in the settings. The own profile contains only pictures and videos, other personal information is not provided. With the map function “Snap Map” you can see where your contacts are at the moment.

Snapchat+ offers a few more features, but so far (as of October 2022) they are rather gimmicky, e.g. selecting different app icons for the phone screen or tagging a very best friend.

What particularly fascinates children and young people about Snapchat?

The app is one of the most popular applications among teenagers aged 13 and older. Teenagers are very fond of using Snapchat to share with their friends. For this purpose, images and videos are simply sent instead of text. The use of fun filters, videos that can be accompanied by music, and the fact that the messages disappear again after a short time is what makes the app so appealing. Snapchat seems more youthful and playful than, for example. Instagram . Communication via Snapchat seems more private to young people, as content is only shared with individuals or in groups here. On the “Snap Map”, people are represented as avatars, which is why it looks like a game.

What can be problematic about Snapchat?

All content on Snapchat doesn’t actually self-destruct, it just can’t be accessed after a certain amount of time. Theoretically, they can be recovered on the device with some technical know-how. Or a screenshot is simply taken – the sender of the image is informed about this, however. Nevertheless, it can be problematic when children and young people send very personal – perhaps even intimate – pictures and videos of themselves and these may be used against them, for example, via cyberbullying. Due to the large amount of content sent, it is difficult to control it. Children and young people should therefore know exactly how to use the reporting and blocking function. This is especially useful in the case of unwanted contact. This is one of the reasons why the “Snap Map” function should be viewed critically.

Certain content can also be problematic for young people. This includes images that are not age-appropriate as well as inappropriate advertising or snaps of brands and products.

What does the provider think?

Users must abide by the rules of the Snap platform. The use of Snapchat is allowed to teenagers from 13 years only with the permission of their parents. However, there is no technical verification of the age information.

In general, it is prohibited to distribute or advertise adult content, such as pornographic images. Minors are not allowed to post or send nude pictures or sexually provocative content of themselves. Security issues can be reported within the service’s German-language security center. It is also possible to block and report other users. So-called content managers check violations of Snapchat policies.

Snapchat collects a lot of data from its users and explains this very openly in its privacy policy – even that data is sometimes passed on to third parties. The data that you send via Snapchat is encrypted during transmission.

What should parents pay attention to?

Handysektor offers a good overview of how to use Snapchat safely. Snapchat ‘sFamily Center gives parents an overview of their child’s activities on the app. However, to connect to the child’s account, a separate Snapchat account is required.

If your child is eager to use the app, be sure to talk about potential dangers. Regulate who can see the shared content and who can’t. Go through the settings together. Explain to yours that sent images can be saved via screenshot by the recipient. It is strongly recommended that teens only add friends to their list that they actually know.

Also talk about the Snap Map function: What does making your location visible mean, what are the consequences and risks involved, and is the function even needed? Location sharing can also happen unconsciously (when opening the app). This can be prevented in the so-called “ghost mode” (Ghost Mode). It is also possible to revoke the app’s permission to access the location. If a friend of your child uses Snapchat+, special care should be taken to disable the tracking feature or block the person.

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