Snapchat allows users to capture and send photos and short videos that self-destruct after a certain amount of time. The user sending the post decides how long the snap will live for (between 1 to 10 seconds) on the receiver’s device. It also includes a built-in chat function that you can message with your followers.
What makes Snapchat unique is its concept of timed posts where the user’s posts, or snaps, disappear with an up to 10 second expiry – think of it like a Mission: Impossible secret message.
Snapchat also has a My Story feature which collects all of your snaps from the past 24 hour period and combines them into a slideshow your followers can check out. Once the 24 hours is up though, that slideshow is gone!
Interestingly, on July 6th 2016, Snapchat announced a new feature called, Memories, which now allows users to save any snap or stories to Snapchat’s servers which can be shared again later.
More recently, new features such as Snap Maps, group messaging, group video and voice calls (some fresh information via Wayne Denner’s blog).
Why it’s popular
On any given day, Snapchat reaches 41% of all 18 to 34 year-olds in the United States.
Source: Nielsen Media Impact, Reach Duplication, Nielsen Total Media Fusion/GfK MRI Survey of The American Consumer 9/1/2015 – 9/30/2015 (Television, Internet, and Mobile)
- The spontaneous and expiring snaps (10 seconds or less) are a refreshing approach for kids told growing up that images and videos shared online are stored forever!
- The Filters! Snapchat provides some creative photo filters that go from layering a puppy face on top of yours to swapping faces with another person that’s in the picture with you! I’ve tried this one with my daughter – it wasn’t pretty!!
- Snapstreaks! Snapchat wants its users to engage daily, hourly or more! So the more consecutive days you snap something between 2 people , the longer the streak. Snapstreak is a feature for kids using Snapchat often will get anxious about losing if they are asked to go on a family vacation with no Wi-Fi (trust me, I just experienced this!)
- Kids can doodle pretty much anything they wish on their snaps
- It’s another platform that kids feel their parents are not watching them (though that’s starting to change)
- With it’s built-in messenger, it’s another way for kids without a smartphone with a texting plan to keep in touch via Wi-Fi
- For many, the concept of the timed and disappearing snap has “an edge” to it which can get escalated in a negative manner as there’s a false comfort zone of the user
- Parents weren’t on this platform, they stuck to Facebook, although with recent shifts in usage, Snapchat is the party that parents are starting to show up to!
- The receiver of a snap can easily take a screenshot (even if Snapchat will notify the sender). There ways around this, one of them being taking a photo of the screen with another device
- Snaps are not removed forever. Google search images may collect Snaps shared shared on various third-party social media platforms
- Open for cyber bullying, sexting, hurtful comments and more
- Snap Maps is a newer feature that was originally introduced in the mobile app but is now also available via Snapchat’s web site. Snapchat shares users’ stories on a map which grabs the location information from the photos that were snapped. While this can be used to simply check where your friends have bene, it could also be used maliciously.
Tips for parents
- Being open with your child of what they wouldn’t do in person doesn’t make it right to do it online – especially in the case of Snapchat where there’s false sense of security of a inappropriate snap disappearing when one of your followers can screenshot or take a photo of such a snap
- Talk with your kids (not at them or lecturing them) about them using Snapchat. They are most likely using Snapchat for innocent fun with peers. Discuss what is fun about it, understand what they enjoy about the application, how friends are using the app, and empower them to come to you if their experience is negative or they feel unsafe
- Even if they share something with an expiry on their snap, there are zero guarantees it’s 100% gone! Making sure appropriate photos and videos are shared will minimize a lot of potential challenges for your child
Lastly, parents remember that many apps like Snapchat will come and go but the basic principles of privacy, security and safety will never change.