Snapchat safety: What parents need to know

Learn about Snapchat's safeguards for teens

If your teen uses Snapchat, make sure they know how to stay safe by learning about the available safety features and potential risks.

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a communication service popular among teens and adults. Users can take photos, record videos, add text or drawings (called Snaps) and send them to Friends.

Snaps disappear after the recipient views it, or within 24 hours (for a Story or Chat). Once all recipients have viewed a Snap, it will be automatically deleted from Snapchat’s servers unless the users save the content.

Typically, users cannot retrieve opened Snaps from Snapchat’s servers. However, parents and teens should report concerns and issues to Snapchat, so Snapchat can preserve relevant data for law enforcement, should the need arise. Note that the ability to preserve data also depends on the user’s activity and privacy settings, among other factors.

Snapchat is available for both Android and iOS users and is free to download. However, there is a premium subscription to the app also available for purchase called Snapchat+.

How does Snapchat work?

It was initially a private photo-sharing app. However, Snapchat features now include short videos, video chat, messaging, photo storage, generative AI and more.

Each Snap shared with your followers is temporary and is available for 24 hours unless you delete it or set a different limit. You can also add different filters, lenses, emojis and text to your Snap. Additionally, you can create a group chat to talk with friends or message individual friends.

As well as the above, Snapchat has a ‘Stories’ and ‘Spotlight’ area.

  • The Stories feature – works as a newsfeed featuring content from news publishers and well-known people. Some use this feature to meet new people.
  • The Spotlight feature – working like TikTok, Spotlight is a dedicated tab in Snapchat for promoting short viral videos. The Spotlight feature will use an algorithm to recommend the ‘most engaging’ posts to watch based on what a user is interested in.

To register, users must download the social media app to their device. Then they must enter their date of birth and create and username and password. Users are then asked to enter their mobile phone number. This is an optional step to help if you get locked out of your account. However, you can use email instead if you prefer.

How Snapchat uses AI

Snapchat offers users the option to engage with an artificial intelligence tool called My AI. It appears in users’ contact lists automatically. Unlike other contacts, My AI cannot be deleted unless you have Snapchat+, Snapchat’s premium subscription option.

My AI works like any other chatbot, allowing users to have conversations with AI. Like ChatGPT, it can also provide more detailed answers like the solution to a Maths problem. With any AI tool, it’s important that children understand appropriate and inappropriate ways to use it to support skill-building.

What data does My AI collect?

Like ChatGPT, My AI collects data from conversations users have with it. If location is enabled, My AI can use that to help answer questions users ask it. If you share content like written messages or Snaps, My AI keeps that data as well. This helps it ‘learn’ facts about users to better answer questions.

According to the Snapchat’s Help Centre, users should avoid sharing confidential or sensitive information with My AI. Additionally, it is against the rules to ask My AI to generate harmful content such as that which promotes violence, self-harm, human trafficking or any content that goes against the Community Guidelines.

How do I delete data from My AI?

If your teen regularly uses My AI, it’s a good idea to get in the habit of routinely deleting their data. You can do this by going to their account Privacy Controls in their Settings, selecting ‘Clear Data’ and then choosing ‘Clear My AI Data.’

Additionally, make sure you talk to your teen about what is and is not okay to share with artificial intelligence like My AI.

What are Dreams from Snapchat?

Dreams is a generative AI tool available through Snapchat’s Memories. It uses images that you supply to create AI generated ones.

To access the feature, swipe up on the home camera screen to open Memories and select Dreams at the top. You must agree to the terms presented, which states that the tool will use provided images to generate or improve Snaps. Additionally, “information about your face may also be used to develop machine learning models throughout this service.”

When uploading your image, you also must agree to let others, including Snap, use your likeness to create new Dreams. You can customise your settings for this and delete your images at any time. See how here.

Users can get 8 Dreams for free but additional Dreams require purchase.

What is Snapchat's minimum age?

Like many other social networks and messaging apps, the minimum age to use Snapchat is 13 years old. Additionally, users aged 13-17 must have permission from a parent or legal guardian to use the app.

While some research shows that children under 13 use the service, Snapchat will remove any accounts they identify as belonging to an underage user.

If your child is interested in using social media but does not meet the age requirements, they face additional online risks. Until they reach the age minimum, consider these alternatives suitable for under-13s.

Risks and benefits

If your teen uses Snapchat, it’s important to understand both the potential risks and benefits. However, these might not apply to all young people, so it’s important to consider your individual child’s maturity, online experience and critical thinking skills.

Snapchat risks

Similar to other social media platforms, common risks on Snapchat include:

  • contact from potentially harmful strangers
  • seeing inappropriate content
  • endless scrolling (or ‘doom scrolling’)
  • bullying, harassment or hate from both friends and strangers
  • disappearing messages, which can make it hard to collect evidence in cases of bullying or similar behaviours.

Snapchat has its own Community Guidelines to help users stay safe. Inappropriate content, bullying and more are not allowed on the platform. However, if your child does see something upsetting, they should report it in-app.

See other ways to stay safe on Snapchat with our step-by-step guide.

Snapchat benefits

Social media is a large part of teens’ lives, and apps like Snapchat can help support important aspects. Some benefits include:

  • a variety of ways to connect with friends
  • creative tools to have fun with friends such as different filters, AI and more
  • messaging features to help some teens develop social skills or find connection with others. This is especially beneficial for children who have additional learning needs such as autism and may struggle to communicate offline
  • a creative outlet to show off their personality and interests

Learn more about social media benefits here.

Does Snapchat have privacy or safety features?

Snapchat has a range of privacy and safety features to help keep users under 18 safe. These include standard reporting and blocking features as well as the ability to turn off location. However, Snapchat has additional features that can also support its users.

See our step-by-step guide to learn about Snapchat’s safety features.

Supporting mental health

Here For You is a mental health feature that provides proactive in-app support to Snapchatters. It supports those potentially experiencing mental health or emotional crises as well as those curious to learn more about these issues and supporting friends dealing with them.

Here For You appears in search results on Snapchat when certain key words are searched.

Learn more about Snapchat’s mental health support.

Teaching online safety

Safety Snapshot is a digital literacy programme by Snapchat aimed at educating users about data, privacy, security and online safety issues.

Learn more about Safety Snapshot.

Supporting safer interaction

Teens use Snapchat to stay in touch with friends via images and text. To encourage safe interactions with people they know, Snapchat uses:

  • in-app warnings: a feature that sends a pop-up warning to teens if someone tries to add them as a friend when they don’t share mutual contacts.
  • limits on friend suggestions: users aged 13-17 must have multiple contacts in common with someone before they show up as suggested friends or see others on their suggestion list.
  • chat restrictions: users cannot contact others directly unless both are added as friends.

Limits on inappropriate content

Snapchat’s Community Guidelines prohibit illegal and harmful content. Additionally, they have a zero-tolerance policy for users committing these harms.

Snapchat uses a Strike System to immediately remove inappropriate content that they detect or receive reports on. Repeat offenders will receive an account ban.

Take a look at our Snapchat privacy parental controls for info on how to enable certain settings.

What is Family Centre on Snapchat?

Snapchat’s Family Centre is an in-app suite of parental controls to help parents and carers engage with their teens’ digital life. Monitoring who your teen talks to or setting content controls help prompt important conversations about online safety.

Family Centre reflects the dynamics of offline relationships between parents and teens, where parents have insight into who their teens are spending time with, while still respecting teens’ privacy. On Family Centre, parents can also easily and confidentially report any concerns directly to Snapchat’s Trust and Safety teams, which work around the clock and around the globe to help keep users safe.

To set up Family Centre, parents must have their own device with Snapchat installed as well as their own Snapchat account. See how to set up Family Centre here.

More to Explore

If you’d like to learn more about the Snapchat and other similar apps, here are some places you can visit:

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