The infamous photo-messaging app doesn’t automatically mean inappropriate pics. Here’s what your teen is likely doing, and what Snapchat is doing to keep them safe.

By Caroline Mullen

So, keeping your kid off Snapchat was a losing battle, and we get it–it can be scary for your kid to make the foray into the overwhelming world of the internet. The good news is, Snapchat is working to make sure it’s a safe space for all teens, given that the app reaches 90% of all 13 to 24-year-olds in the U.S. Some features that may contribute to your kid being glued to their phone are:

Snap Originals/Discover Content: All content on the Discover page (to the right of the camera) is carefully curated with trusted partners to deliver news and entertainment you can feel good about your teenagers watching. Whether it be news from outlets such as NBC, The Wall Street Journal and ESPN, or exclusive three to five minute scripted shows and docu-series made exclusively for Snapchat’s mobile-first audience, Snap serves up both original and partnered content.

Lenses/AR Experiences: Snapchat’s Lenses launched back in 2015 as a new way to see yourself and the world around you, using the power of augmented reality. Teens love to use Lenses to express their creativity and communicate with their friends in a way that feels authentic and fun. These are the colorful filters that add hearts or puppy ears over your teen’s face. Most recently, Snapchat introduced Lenses that can transform some of the world’s most iconic landmarks, with just a tap. Learn more and check them out here.

Lens Studio: Snapchatters can use Lenses built by the team at Snapchat, as well as by others in the community through the free, public Lens Studio tool. Lens Studio is a perfect way for your teens who are learning how to code to apply their new skills to create a Lens for themselves and their friends to enjoy. Lenses submitted through Lens Studio can appear in a library called Lens Explorer in the app, and are subject to Snap’s Terms of Service, Community Guidelines and more to ensure that the content is safe for Snapchatters. Based on usage, some Lenses may be reviewed proactively by the Snap team who will take action–from deactivating a Snapcode, to suspending or banning a user–if necessary. Snapchatters can also report Lenses from the community through in-app reporting.

Snap Games: Snap Games is a gaming platform that focuses on the experience you have with your real friends on Snapchat, inviting friends to instantly play with each other with just a tap (no installing separate apps). Users can see which friends they’re playing with, send them a chat, or even talk live with voice chat. It feels like they’re sitting shoulder to shoulder, playing on the same screen. Snap Games features the new Bitmoji Party, a collection of fun mini-games where you and your friends can play as your own Bitmoji characters, with more games continuing to roll-out this summer.

Now, here are the ways in which Snapchat creates a positive environment for your teen:

  • When Snapchat launched in 2011, it was at a time when young people were already spending a lot of energy curating a perfect image of themselves on social media. In contrast, Snapchat was built as a place to talk through photos and videos with your friends. The first core innovation of Snapchat -- ephemeral photos -- was designed to combat this behavior. On Snapchat, you could be silly, be yourself, have fun and live in the moment knowing that the Snaps are designed to delete after they've been viewed or expired.
  • On Snapchat there are no public likes or public comments either -- no pressure to be perfect!
  • To add someone on Snapchat, you need the exact username or to have the phone number saved in your phone. Unlike other platforms, Snapchatters do not have browsable public profiles that include things like location, interests, or age.
  • Vanity numbers like how many friends other Snapchatters are also not displayed. Plus, you can't see how many people view each other's Stories either.
  • On Snapchat, there is also no need to disable or hide negative comments--there are no comments--because the company doesn’t believe self-expression should be judged by other people’s commentary.
  • By default, you cannot send or receive any messages, or watch Stories on Snapchat from someone who you haven't already added as a friend on the app.
  • It’s easy for Snapchatters to report any violating content and quickly block anyone for any reason. Just press and hold on a Snap, and then tap the little flag that appears in the lower right-hand corner.
  • Snap also works with best-in-class experts to provide a number of resources. These can be found in an online Safety Centre designed to provide parents, teachers and Snapchatters with safety tips, research and resources to help keep Snapchatters safe online. For example:
  • Snap recommends Snapchatters do not change the default ‘Friends Only’ settings, keep their privacy settings restricted, do not share their username publicly and do not add people they do not know as Friends.
  • It’s also recommended that Snapchatters report any abuse or safety concerns. If anyone believes a crime has been committed, they should contact their local law enforcement. There are built in-app (easy-to-use) reporting tools that make an immediate copy of offending content so we can investigate with evidence. The company’s team works round the clock to review abuse reports and take quick action when they become aware of a violation.