Snapchat

App review by
Chris Morris, Common Sense Media
Snapchat App Poster Image
Send moments in photos, watch curated content; use wisely.

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 184 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 166 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Snapchat wasn’t created with educational intent, and we don't recommend it for learning.

Ease of Play

Snapchat is extremely easy to set up and use. Users create a unique Snapchat account and add friends by linking to their phone’s address book, connecting to Facebook, or entering specific Snapchat usernames. To send a message, users snap a picture with the in-app camera (or type a text message), set the length of time the photo will display, select recipients, and send. Users can see a list of sent and received messages and can see if messages were opened. In addition, users who are using the app at the same time can initiate a private teleconference.

Violence

Teens and other users can send and receive unmonitored photos, texts, and videos. News footage in Discover sometimes features disturbing video content, such as a bomb exploding in a house. 

Sex

Teens and other users can send and receive unmonitored photos, texts, and videos. Some of the Discover content also is sexually suggestive in nature. 

Language

Teens and other users can send and receive unmonitored photos, texts, and videos. The content in Discover is not monitored, and it's not unusual to see words such as "f--k" or "s--t." 

Consumerism

Discover lets brands including Food Network, CNN, and Warner Music promote their content, which sometimes includes new films or music, and users can pay for replays of Snaps via in-app purchase. Snapchat Shows also have six-second commercials.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

There is no content related to drinking, drugs, or smoking in the app itself, but teens can send and receive unmonitored photos.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Snapchat is a popular messaging app that allows teens to exchange user-generated photos, texts, videos, and calls -- both audio and video. The developer claims that "Snaps" can't be saved within the app and are only viewable for one to 10 seconds before disappearing from the recipient's device, noting that the app notifies the sender if the recipient takes a screenshot of an image. However, several third-party programs easily intercept and store any Snaps sent to the user, and users can buy replays of Snaps via in-app purchase, negating the "temporary" aspect of the service. Also, as of 2017, users can play Snaps as long as they'd like until they exit that Snap, which deletes it as usual.  You can delete text messages sent through the app and Snaps, if they're unopened and used a saved picture (rather than one taken on the spot). If users opt to share their location, they can see friends on a "Snap Map" and see Snapchat Stories from other users in various locations, and if they do opt in, they can use "Ghost Mode" to see others but not be visible themselves. In terms of location, friends can also send their own location and request a friend's location, which will update live for eight hours unless turned off. There's also an option to share public stories on other social media platforms. The app has gained a reputation as a "sexting" app because outgoing (and incoming) pictures, videos, and texts are not stored on devices, but many teens use it simply to exchange fun, silly pictures. In addition, a video feature called Discover has curated content from outlets including CNN, Cosmopolitan, Warner Music, and Vice. The Discover content (which disappears after 24 hours, a much longer window than for other content) often features harsh language, sexual content, violence, advertisements, or videos with, for instance, a character flipping viewers "the bird," and there is no option to opt out. In light of a feature called "Snapstreaks," some kids may feel pressure to keep a streak (trading Snaps within 24 hours over a period of days) going. There's also a "Do Not Disturb" feature that lets teens mute threads without outright blocking anyone. To compete with other group video chatting apps, it also lets you video chat with up to 16 friends at a time. As of 2016, Snapchat also has video-recording glasses called Specs available for purchase which record short videos that you can send to your phone and, from there, post to Snapchat. Through the World Lends, users can find Snapchat Art which will place AR art in select cities so users can find the exact location and see the AR image. Check out their Safety Center and content for parents to get more information. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAdm325465 June 20, 2016

Snapchat

Dear Parents Considering Snapchat, Oh Snapchat.... One of the most controversial apps on the app store. I'm writing this after l... Continue reading
Parent of a 7, 8, 13, 14, and 16 year old Written byTom7744 November 19, 2015

DANGEROUS - Don't be a YES Parent! This app is bad news!! Just say NO!

We are currently going through the "switch" moment (11-13) where our daughter is transitioning from a Sweet Princess who was once thoughtful, loving a... Continue reading
Kid, 12 years old January 4, 2013

Use Wisely.

While using snapchat, a person can take a picture, put a timer on it, (to make it visible for a certain amount of time: 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, or 10 seconds) and th... Continue reading
Teen, 16 years old Written bymollycharlotterose July 19, 2014

You just have to make sure you know who your child has as a contact!

I am 16, and I have been using snapchat for a fair amount of time now. I think that it is absolutely fine for most ages - as long as the person using it, and th... Continue reading

What's it about?

SNAPCHAT is a photo-messaging app that allows users to put a time limit on a sent picture, text, or video so the recipient can see it for only a few seconds before it disappears, though replays are available for purchase via in-app transactions. Users can add friends from their device's address book and Facebook friends list, or they can enter specific usernames. To send a picture, users take a snapshot using the in-app camera, set a time limit, select recipients, and send. By tapping and holding their own image in the selfie cam, teens enable facial-recognition software that allows them to add animated effects to their selfies. Videos are captured by continuously pressing the on-screen shutter, and texts are typed. Users have a Snapchat mailbox, where they can see a list of sent and received messages. In addition, users can live-chat with others if they're online at the same time and know each other's username. Also, users can call each other using video or just audio and can include short video "notes" in chat. In addition to individual chats, users can create groups with up to 16 people. If users trade Snaps within 24 hours over a period of days, they are in a "Snapstreak." The Discover area of the app has daily content from 12 outlets, which changes every day. Viewers get a short video preview and can swipe down to watch or read more, swipe right to see the next story (each outlet files 10 per day), or swipe up to exit that provider's options. You also can contribute to Our Story; if your Snap is chosen, it might be included in a curated collection available to all users. For hands-free snapping, users can buy "Specs," which are glasses that record videos. Once recorded, the videos can be sent to a phone and then posted to Snapchat.

Is it any good?

Though it might have (at one time) sounded like a great way to control images, videos, and texts shared with friends, trusting the app with that information is not a wise bet. As soon as the app became a hit among users, third-party apps popped up to destroy the illusion of a fleeting thought that disappears once viewed. As with any media-sharing tool, users should be cautious and thoughtful about which images they send with Snapchat. The seemingly risk-free messaging might encourage users to share pictures containing sexual, violent, or illegal content. Also, kids might feel pressure or anxiety around keeping a Snapstreak going, which keeps them tied to their phones.

Users can receive updates in Snapchat from anyone who knows their usernames, so teens using Snapchat will need to be careful not to share their usernames in public forums. Users also can chat with anyone who knows their usernames in real time, if the two are using the app at the same time. The recently added Discover feature keeps avid users up to date on current news and pop culture events, but it features some inappropriate videos and language, as well as advertising hidden in the form of updates. View our video The Truth About Sexting for more ways to talk to your teen about safe messaging practices.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the long-term effects of sharing what are assumed to be private moments through apps like Snapchat. 

  • Parents also can remind kids that nothing, once posted to the Internet, ever really goes away -- and it can come back to haunt them.

App details

For kids who love creating and sharing

Our editors recommend

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