Everything Parents Need to Know About Snapchat

Kids and teens are using Snapchat more and more as a primary way of communicating. With its lighthearted cartoon interface, it’s a fun way to keep connected with friends and family — that’s why they’ve racked up over 360 million daily users. However, like any other social media app, Snapchat can be used improperly. 

This is why it's important to monitor your child's usage and set some basic rules. Here are some tips for setting up Snapchat privacy settings, so your child can use the app safely.

The Basics of Snapchat

How Does Snapchat Work?

Snapchat is a free social media app available for Android and iOS devices that allows users — known as Snapchatters — to share messages, pictures (Snaps), and videos with their friends and family. 

When a someone posts a Snap, it's sent out to all of their followers who can view it for a limited time before it disappears. Snapchatters can also send their Snaps to multiple recipients simultaneously, making it perfect for sending group multimedia files to a group of friends or classmates.

Do Messages Really Disappear on Snapchat?

By default, a one-on-one message immediately deletes after a Snapchatter views it. If it remains unopened, the message will automatically delete after 31 days. 

Users can choose to change this setting and set the messages to delete immediately after the recipient views them. This setting triggers all previously reviewed messages to disappear. 

Group messages delete after 24 hours of all recipients viewing them or one week after they were sent, whichever comes first. 

Keep in mind that messages may stay on Snapchat’s servers, even if they appear deleted to the user. So it may be possible to retrieve messages in certain situations. 

Can You Save Snapchat Messages?

Message viewers can always screenshot messages, or save messages in the app by pressing and holding. After saving a Snap, the Snap will appear in the chat as Chat Media.

Can You Delete Your Own Snapchat Messages?

Users can delete a Snap in the Chat window by pressing and holding it, then tapping “Delete.” Snapchat sets it to delete user-deleted messages from its servers, and as long as friends are using the most recent version of Snapchat, the app will delete the message from their devices as well.

How Snapchat Keeps Kids Engaged with the App

Snapchat draws in tweens and teens by gamifying app use. Snapchat Streaks and Snap Scores encourage kids to repeat certain behaviors in the app and engage in friendly competition with each other.

What are Snapchat Streaks?

A Snapchat streak is when you and another Snapchatter have been sharing snaps within 24 hours over three consecutive days. The more the Snapchatters exchange snaps, the stronger the streak gets. 

You’ll know when you and a friend are on a Snapchat Streak because the fire emoji will appear. And you’ll know it’s about to expire because the hourglass emoji takes place of the fire emoji. The hourglass encourages users to keep the streak going before it disappears completely. 

The number next to the fire emoji represents the number of days the Snapstreak has been going, so kids are encouraged to get that number as high as they can. 

What Is a Score on Snapchat?

A Snapchat score or Snap score is a measure of how active a Snapchatter is on the app. 

A high Snap score shows your child has been busy sharing content, snaps, watching videos, chatting, and interacting with other Snapchatters. While the Snap score doesn't give the Snapchatter any special perks, it's a great way to earn bragging rights. Kids compete with each other and show off their high scores. 

Location Tracking on Snapchat

What's Snap Map?

Snap Map allows Snapchatters to share their physical location in real time. This feature displays where your child is throughout the day and updates in real time. 

While it's a fun way to let your child's friends know what they are up to, there might be times when you don’t want people to know where your child is, and there may be people you want to exclude from knowing where your child is. 

The feature can be helpful, because you as a parent can check in on where your child is. But, before you allow the Snap Map to display your child, consider who might also be keeping tabs.

The good news is, you can turn it off.  

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Ghost Mode: How to Keep Your Child's Location Private

Fortunately, you can hide your child's location by entering Ghost Mode. In Ghost Mode, your child’s location is hidden.

How to activate Ghost Mode in Snapchat

  1. Access your child's Snapchat account
  2. Open the Snap Map
  3. Tap the cog button a the top of the Map screen to open Map settings
  4. Toggle on the “Ghost Mode” option
  5. Select the Ghost Mode timer from the available options: either a set number of hours or completely off
  6. From another account, make sure your child is not visible on the Snap Map

What's a Snapchat Story?

Snapchat Stories lets a Snapchatter share something with all their followers at once. Your child creates a story through a collection of memories, such as Snaps and videos. 

Once a Snapchatter taps on the circle, it auto-plays through the content they’ve selected.

Stories are set to delete after 24 hours. However, if they are a Snapchat+ subscriber, they can customize the stories' timer to change when the stories delete. 

It's crucial to know that Stories are public, all the more reason to learn how to activate Snapchat privacy controls. 

How to Set a Snapchat Story to Private 

To restrict those who can watch your child's stories:

  1. Access your child’s Snapchat account.
  2. Tap the cog in My Profile to see the Settings
  3. Scroll to “Who Can…” and click “View My Story”
  4. Choose who you will allow to see your Story: Everyone, My Friends, or Custom

Parental Controls in Snapchat

There aren't any built-in Snapchat parental controls, but you can leverage the app’s privacy settings to ensure a safer Snapchat experience for your child:

Change "Who Can Contact Me" to “My Friends”

To change who can contact you child:

  1. Access your child's Snapchat account.
  2. Tap the profile picture icon to open settings. 
  3. Scroll down and tap the 'Privacy Control"
  4. Change who can contact your child to My Friends. 
  5. Choose your desired option and save your choice. 

Uncheck “Show Me in Quick Add”

The Quick Add feature suggests Snapchatters with similar interests to your child. If you want your child to interact with only people they know in real life, you won’t want them to appear in Quick Add suggested users. To uncheck it:

  1. Access the Snapchat account and tap the profile picture icon to access the settings.
  2. Scroll down and tap on the “Who Can” menu item.
  3. Tap “See me in Quick Add” and uncheck it.

How to Block Users

Once you are in the account:

  1. Swipe right to access the friends list.
  2. Tap and hold the friend's name you wish to block. Alternatively, you can access the messages and tap and hold the friend's name. 
  3. Tap on “More” and from there you can block the user.

Other Privacy Settings

Other privacy settings include:

  • Who your child can receive notifications from
  • Who can use your child's Cameos Selfie

Talking to Kids About Safe Snapchat Use

Snapchat parental controls are part of keeping your child safe while using the app. The other part is talking and monitoring their usage. 

Here are some talking points to get you started. 

  • Do not interact with strangers on Snapchat. Only add friends you know in real life. 
  • Someone you don't know can get your IP address if you click a link. Don't click links if you don't know what they are. 
  • Think before you post, as it's hard to undo something you post once it goes online. Teach your kids that the Internet is forever. 
  • Tell your child that you will go through privacy settings together. Once they’re set, ask them to please do not change them. Let them know you’ll do a quick privacy check-up from time to time to make sure the settings are still where we need them. 
  • Avoid sharing personal or private information via the app. No addresses, no siblings’ names, not even the school you go to. 
  • Don't share your Snapchat or any other account passwords with anyone online. Parents, it's a good idea to know your child's password to make sure it's strong and secure. Consider storing it in a secure password manager.
  • Only share Snaps and videos that make yourself and others feel good, without any social pressures. If you mention someone else, pause and ask yourself, “would this person feel good or uncomfortable if I shared this?”
  • Let them know you are monitoring their Snapchat usage, but only to keep them safe.
  • Most importantly: let them know that if they have challenges, need help, or if something makes them uncomfortable, to come talk to you and they won’t be in trouble. 

Although BrightCanary doesn't currently monitor Snapchat, you can use the parental monitoring app to supervise your child's TikTok and Instagram activity, as well as text messages — all places that your child may run into concerning content. Implementing a parental monitoring tool and having regular conversations about technology use can go a long way, giving your child a safe space to talk about anything concerning they may encounter online.

The Bottom Line: Is Snapchat Safe for Kids and Teens?

Every social media platform has its own set of safety issues. Fortunately, Snapchat privacy controls can add a protective layer between your child and the rest of the world. Monitoring your kids' online activities goes a long way to keep them safe, so keep tabs on your teen or tween’s social media activity. Most importantly, let them know that you’re in this together and they can always ask for help.  


Snapchat users 2023

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