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

Parents say

age 14+
Based on 321 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 416 reviews

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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.

Diverse Representations

User feeds are as diverse or non-diverse as their contacts, since the app's primary function is to trade Snaps rather than explore new content. That said, Snap Map allows users to see Stories from all over the world, which is positive, and Snapchat Discover also varies in representations (but most of the content is based around popular entertainment/entertainers.) Teens can control Discover content to some extent. But as with any app reliant on user-generated content, Snaps, Stories, and photo filters conform to a narrow set of “idealized” beauty -- e.g. lightened and airbrushed skin, big eyes, thin bodies, etc.

Ease of Play

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, people using the app at the same time can initiate a private teleconference.


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. 


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


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


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

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 viewable only 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 location and request a friend's location, which will update live for eight hours unless turned off. There's an option to share public stories on other social media platforms, and premium publishers can access and use publicly posted stories. The "Sounds" feature lets users set Snaps to music, TikTok style. If users swipe up and tape "Play This Song," they can tap and listen to the full song. In the Memories section, teens can save posts behind a passcode so that no one else can access them. 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. Third-party "mini-apps" are available in the chat field, mostly enabling easier purchases, but also offering content from platforms like Headspace for meditation. Users can also access content from HBO Max (content is recommended by age in user's profile) and chat with friends as they watch. 

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. The "charms" found in friend profiles are also incentives to keep snapping. 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 lets you video-chat with up to 16 friends at a time. The Spotlight feature, which is a scrollable feed of short videos (like TikTok), promises that the most popular Snaps can earn real money, which could push kids to post riskier stuff publicly. And with a Remix feature that's like TikTok Duets, users can combine Snaps. Original, multiplayer games are available from within the app, too. 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 Lens, 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. If a kid does a search for topics like depression or eating disorders, the results will include resources from experts to find support. 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. Under California's CCPA law, you have the right to protect your personal information. Make a Do Not Sell request to Snapchat.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byMeghan Smith March 21, 2015


I honestly don't see all the fuss about snapchat as long as your kids are responsible.
Adult Written byRickLee January 12, 2019

PLEASE READ! it’s not as bad as it is told to be

Honestly when my son and daughter first started asking for Snapchat I told them absolutely not because of the fact that messages disappear and is the worst app... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written bywhysosalty January 29, 2017

Essentially Texting

Snapchat is a great app that can be used 100% innocently. Some parents automatically associate this app with sending nudes and talking to strangers, when this i... Continue reading
Kid, 11 years old June 5, 2017

Maturity Level

I can't really talk because I am just eleven, but I believe that you should not be any younger than this to use any form of social media such as Snap Chat.... 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 that 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 username, so teens using Snapchat will need to be careful not to share their username in public forums. Users also can chat with anyone who knows their username 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.

  • Families can discuss the long-term effects of using extensive photo and beauty filters, and whether or not there's a mental health impact in the form of anxiety, insecurity, and/or negative body image.

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

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad, Android
  • Subjects: Arts: photography
  • Skills: Communication: multiple forms of expression
    Tech Skills: digital creation, social media
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: September 26, 2011
  • Category: Photo & Video
  • Size: 2.70 MB
  • Publisher: Snap, Inc.
  • Version: 3.0.0
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 4.0 or later; Android 2.2 and up
  • Last updated: December 9, 2021

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