As a parent, we know that you want to protect your children and teenagers from harmful apps that can lead them into situations where they feel threatened or where they are able to make choices that lead to disastrous consequences. Snapchat is an app that can be dangerous for children and teens so we compiled these tips for parents regarding the popular app.

First of all, what is Snapchat? Snapchat is an app that allows people to send photos, videos, and messages to each other. The defining feature of Snapchat is that Snapchat will remove and hide photos after the user has viewed the photo. Typically the user viewing the photo has 3-10 seconds to view the photo before it disappears and cannot be viewed again.

One of our tips for parents, however, is to talk to their teenagers before allowing them on the app. Too many teenagers think that once these photos have disappeared, they cannot be retrieved. However, Snapchat does not actually delete the photos from their servers and a talented hacker could access them as well as law enforcement. It’s important to let your teenagers know that risque photos sent through Snapchat are not fully protected and they need to be careful when sharing photos even when the photos are being sent to friends.

Another tip for parents is to limit access to the Snapchat app. Snapchat is not appropriate for children under the age of 13 and in fact Snapchat does not allow children under the age of 13 to register for the app. Tech-savy children will attempt to register for the app however by creating a fake email account with an older birthday. Talk to your children about the importance of waiting until they are older to use the app. If you do want to allow your child to use the Snapchat app, Snapchat does have a child-friendly version called “Snapkidz” where children can take snaps and draw or caption their snaps but they cannot send the snaps to others. This can be an appropriate app but we encourage parents to watch their child sign up to ensure that they have a Snapkidz app and not a Snapchat app on their mobile device.

In the past decade as the Internet has exploded and teen social media time has grown, Internet addiction has increasingly become a problem. One of the ways in which you can protect your teen from Internet addiction is to set clear boundaries regarding Internet usage. For example, requiring teenagers to turn their phones off and put them in a basket in the kitchen or living room before bed is an excellent way to ensure that your teens are getting their sleep rather than extending their teen social media time overnight. To model good behavior, we also recommend that parents do the same with their phones to promote both healthy sleeping and healthy technology habits.

Lastly, we recommend that parents teach their teenagers how to be responsible mini adults online. Teenagers are not always aware of the consequences of their actions or how their online behavior, through Snapchat or through another online app, can significantly impact their life including future college applications, job applications, and spouses. Explain to your teenagers what can be shared online and what should not be shared online. Explain the consequences of sharing certain things online by showing your teenagers real world examples of other teenagers who made poor choices and found themselves in legal trouble or with revoked college scholarships.

For more information on how to talk to your teenager, read more on our website.