App Guide


Name: Snapchat

Owned By: Snap, Inc.

Category: Photo and video 

Operating System: IOS and Android 

Available for download: Yes

Desktop version: No

Approximate release date: 2011

Age Rating*: Rated 12+ for the following: 

  • Infrequent/mild sexual content and nudity 
  • Infrequent/mild profanity or crude humor
  • Infrequent/mild alcohol, tobacco, or drug use or references 
  • Infrequent/mild mature/suggestive themes

Brief Description*: Snapchat is a fast and fun way to share the moment with your friends and family.

*Information from the App Store

  • Access to your camera (device camera)

    To use Snapchat, you must grant access to your camera.

  • Access to contacts (on the device)

    When people create an account on Snapchat they have the option to sync their contacts to connect with their friends.

  • Access to photo gallery (on the device)

    Users have the option to access their photo gallery. By doing so, users can share images from their photo gallery and save images to their photo gallery.

  • Anonymous posting (posting without a username or other identifiers)

    Each post and message is connected to a username or other identifier.

  • Business Accounts (used for business)

    Some businesses use Snapchat to promote their products and services on SnapChat stories.

  • Ability to chat

    Snapchat users can send messages in the form of an image or video, or they can send direct messages.

  • Clear history function (including photos and stories)

    When people send photos or videos to someone through Snapchat, they can determine how many seconds the viewer can access it (1-10 seconds or an infinite time limit.) Once the time limit is reached, it can no longer be viewed. For direct messaging, there is no time limit, but the message disappears after the chat is closed out of. However, both the sender and receiver can save the message. Lastly, stories are available for 24 hours after posting.

  • Collects user’s information

    Snapchat uses contact information and identifiers to track users across apps and websites owned by other companies. Other data may be collected and linked to your identity including purchases, contact info, user content, identifiers, diagnostics, location, contacts, search history, and usage data. Additionally, Snapchat may use your location when it isn’t open, which can decrease device battery life.

  • Connect with strangers (ability to)

    People can connect with people they don’t know through Snapchat.

  • Cyberbullying opportunities

    Similar to other social networking apps, cyberbullying is plausible.

  • Direct messaging (private)

    Snapchat users can message their friends privately.

  • Established accounts available for purchase online

    You can purchase “boosts'' for your Snap Score on eBay. This may require you to give your password to the seller so they can boost your score.

  • Eating disorder content/imagery/references

    This type of content is not typically found on Snapchat, but it can be found on the discover section or users can send Snapchats relating to these topics.

  • Emoji search

    Users can search for users or filters by using emojis. Some emojis contain secret messages.

  • Graphic content warning (blurring graphic content before viewing)

    Sponsored ads may contain graphic content or lead you to graphic content.

  • Group chat and video chat

    Users can create groups on Snapchat to send images and texts to an entire group.

  • Hashtag use (use hashtags as a search/directory)

    Users cannot use hashtags to search for accounts or content.

  • Hidden photo vault

    People can save “my eyes only” images in Snapchat memories. It is password protected.

  • Hidden web browser

    Snapchat does not have this feature.

  • Live streaming

    Live streaming is currently not available for users.

  • Location dependent services (must location for it to function)

    Snapchat doesn’t need location access for it to function.

  • Location services enabling

    Similar to other apps, Apple and third-party websites can gather and use location information to provide location-based services.

  • Marketing (sponsored content)

    Publishing partners, such as Seventeen, Vice, The Washington Post, People, and more, share sponsored content on Snapchat.

  • Memories (from past posts)

    Snapchat will generate a collection of Snapchat photo memories that were taken on the same date you access the app.

  • Mental health content/imagery/references

    This type of content is not typically found on Snapchat, but users can send “snaps” to each other regarding mental health.

  • Nudity

    Nudity is not part of Snapchat’s content. However, users may choose to send nude content to each other or on a “story.”

  • Offline functionality (can be accessed without WiFi/cell service)

    Users can take pictures and store them within Snapchat and can send them once they are connected to WiFi or data.

  • Original content (shows, news, movies)

    Some current shows by Snapchat: Deep Creek, Endless Summer, The Dead Girls Detective Agency, and Growing up Drag.

  • Password protected (beyond account password)

    The only additional password beyond the account password is to access “my eyes only” saved photos.

  • Photo filters and editing

    People can use filters on their images and edit them too.

  • Pornography (refer to sexualized content)

    Pornography posts are not part of Snapchat’s content, but it can be shared by users.

  • Privacy settings (set account as private)

    While Snapchat accounts are considered “private” or “public,” users can monitor who does and does not view their Snapchat stories.

  • Reporting functions

    Users can report bullying, inappropriate content, safety concerns, etc. on Snapchat.

  • Screen recording and screenshot notifications

    If someone screen records or takes a screenshot of someone’s Snapchat or story, they will be notified.

  • Scoring system (trophies, points, rewards, etc.)

    Snapchat tracks “snap” scores based on a user’s activity on the app, such as how many apps you send and receive. Additionally, when users send and receive a “snap” to each other everyday, they increase their Snapchat streak.

  • Self-promotion (for popularity or marketing purposes)

    Both individuals and companies can promote themselves on Snapchat.

  • Sexual account accessible by purchase

    WatchMyFeed is the current site where account access can be purchased.

  • Sexualized content (sexual acts, pictures, or videso)

    While this type of content isn’t common on Snapchat, it can still be found on the app.

  • Story posts

    Through Snapchat, users can post “stories” that consist of images or videos that are posted for 24 hours for all their followers to view.

  • Suicide content

    Suicide posts are not part of Snapchat’s content, but it can be shared or posted by users.

  • Video chatting

    Individuals can video chat on Snapchat.

  • Violence

    This is uncommon on Snapchat.

  • Voice chatting

    Users can send voice messages to Snapchat friends.

Reviewed By: Ryan

While Snapchat has a deceptive feel to it due to the disappearing messaging function, the messages, pictures, and videos are not always inappropriate. Snapchat has taken over how kids “message” each other and often prefer “snapping” someone over texting. Setting expectations and discussing behaviors for using the app is very important as a parent. Snapchat itself isn’t dangerous, but a youth posting risky content could turn into a dangerous situation.

If youth have not been exposed to sexualized content, drugs, and mental health topics before Snapchat, there is a high potential for them to be exposed after they create a Snapchat account. If you have had prevention discussions around these topics, then you might feel more comfortable letting your 13-year-old use Snapchat.

Discuss help-seeking strategies with your youth, such as what do to if they see someone posting about mental health issues, depression, self-harm, or suicide. Teach them to use the reporting functions built into Snapchat and to keep an open line of communication with you as the parent. Teach them how to report and block users that post inappropriate content or who are bullying your child.

There are “Publisher Stories” about sex available. You should be prepared for your kids to see these as it’s easy to stumble upon and kids are curious about sex at that age. Talk to your children about not posting sexual or provocative content. Teach them about self-esteem based upon the content of their character, not the appearance of their body.  As of today, a search of the word “sex” in the Discover section resulted in these Publisher Stories: “Your Biggest Sex Questions Answered” (Teen Vogue), “We Asked Sex Workers About Their First Days on the Job” (Vice), and “7 Hookup Secrets Sex Therapists Want You to Know” (Cosmopolitan).

Adult Snapchat accounts can be accessed through a purchase. You can also search WatchMyFeed and find accounts that will, for a fee, allow you access to sexually explicit Snapchat accounts. The fees are monthly and some are available for purchase for a year. Fees range from $14-$60 a month and around $99 for a year’s access.

Be aware of multiple accounts as well. Youth will sometimes have a well-curated appropriate account that you know of, but will also have other accounts where questionable behaviors will occur.

Safety Tips

My #1 recommendation: If you are going to let your child have a Snapchat account, you should have an account as well so that you can effectively educate them on how to use it responsibly. You should “friend” each other on Snapchat to assist in monitoring behaviors. 

Here are some other safety tips: 

  • Do not use full names as usernames.
  • Set the account to private
  • Only accept followers of people they know in person.
  • Remove any unknown followers that they currently have.
  • Do not post personal information such as drivers license, school ID’s, state ID’s, phone numbers, birth certificates, school schedules, and other identifying information.
  • Turn off location services.
  • Use the reporting system when they see inappropriate content. 
  • Talk to a parent if they see a concerning post from a friend (mental health, bullying, inappropriate posts).
  • Report bullying both through Snapchat’s reporting function and to a parent.
  • Save screenshots of bullying behaviors.
  • Block bullies.
  • Stick with the age restrictions.
  • Snapchat keeps a “Snapchat Score” based upon how the user uses the app. Some youth may become overly focused on their score. Ask you kids what their “Snapchat score” is. Keep an eye on this. It will help you understand how much they are using the app.
  • Even though an account is private, privacy isn’t guaranteed. Once a post is shared it is totally out of the users’ control.
  • A digital reputation begins the moment an account is opened. What they post now could affect them later in life.
  • I would not recommend children less than 13 use Snapchat even though the current app rating is 12+.

Reviewed By: Katie

Snapchat is a multi-functional application, enabling users to be able to send pictures, text messages, video chat, voice call, use funny filters, play games, follow other users and view their posts, as well as post their own images and videos to their followers. This is a lot of content that can be found on a single application, and the concept that draws most users to the app is that everything completely disappears once it is sent and viewed. This is the falsehood that causes most people to abuse Snapchat and get themselves into trouble. Just like any other app, make sure your child is aware that the messages that they send can easily be retrieved, screenshotted, or saved by other people.

The app is not equipped with heavy privacy settings, as anyone who has your child’s account username can request to follow them. I suggest encouraging them to not put their Snapchat username in the bio of any other account that they might have, such as Instagram. Depending upon how they set their “Who can…” in Settings,  if someone were to get their username, they could add your child as a friend without any ability to accept or decline. If your child does not add the account back, then the unknown user has no way of contacting them on private messages, only viewing their public stories. In this case, I would highly suggest blocking the unknown user so that no contact can be made, as well as changing the “Who Can Contact Me” feature in settings to “Friends Only.”

Snapchat also does not allow any account to be logged in on more than one device, making parents incapable of monitoring the application while their child uses it. Because of this feature, I would definitely suggest making your own account and following your child so that you can at least view their public stories. Your child has the capability to block you from seeing their story using the “Custom” button under “Who Can View My Story” in the app settings, so you may want to check your child’s account to make sure they don’t utilize this feature.

Ultimately, this app gives the user high amounts of privacy that can easily be taken advantage of. It is a very fun way to communicate with friends and stay connected with your peers, but if you cannot trust your child or feel that they are not yet mature enough to use the app appropriately, this is definitely not the app for them. As a guideline, I would suggest the minimum age that you allow your child to use Snapchat be at least fourteen. You have to know that your child can make positive decisions independently, as the application truly gives them an amount of freedom and privacy that is refreshing and fun, but can easily be taken to extremes.

About Katie

Katie first began using social media in fifth grade when she made an Instagram account the same year that the app was first launched. Since then, she has witnessed the program transform into what it is today, and has experienced both the good and bad that has come along with it. Katie has always practiced safe social media habits and is now sharing her experiences to help younger users understand the importance of protecting themselves online.