Snapchat App Poster Image

Snapchat

Send moments in photos, watch curated content; use wisely.
Popular with kids

What parents need to know

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

Snapchat encourages users to invite friends and contacts to download the app and sign up for an account. Users can only send Snapchat photos, texts, and videos to others using the service. A new service, called Discover, also 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.

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.

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. 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, violence, advertisements, or videos with, for instance, a character flipping viewers "the bird," and there is no option to opt out. 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. Read the app's privacy policy to find out about the types of information collected and shared.

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. 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?

QUALITY

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.

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.

Families can talk 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

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

This review of Snapchat was written by

Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are conducted by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.

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Parent of a 12 and 14 year old Written bymom0125 November 5, 2012

Age should be younger.

i thought my kids finally found a social media site to express herself! Much better and safer than any other social media
What other families should know
Great messages
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 then you can add a note if you want and then can send it to anyone if you have their snapchat username. Parents would want to be careful to let their child use this app, because there is the possibility of a kid taking innapropriate pictures or adding bad language to the pictures, and the parent would never know because the picture disappears in seconds and you can never find it again. I use it with my friends just for fun, and my parents trust me with what I do with it, and they occasionally look at the pictures my friends send me.
What other families should know
Great messages
Safety and privacy concerns
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 and considerate to.... Well…. someone else entirely, we still love this stranger but it's taking some time to adjust =). I hear that we could get our sweet loving person back anywhere from age 16 to 21 but wow that's a loooong time to wait. Sigh…. That’s life.. So…. SNAPCHAT REVIEW! When we noticed that our daughter was becoming active online and getting more of an attitude with everyone we started looking into her activity online and I have to say that I am so glad we did. She was cursing, getting sexual post tags from her 11 year old friends, saying sexual things to teenage YouTube heart throbs which she was instructed by them to do via a request to the masses of obsessed girls (she didn’t know it but it was really bad) …. The list goes on, she wasn't doing drugs or getting sexual thankfully but it was a path that she could go down. So we intervened and we continue to do so. I am not saying we examine every single post or message but a glance here and there doesn’t hurt and in our case it was a wakeup call. OK, so that was Twitter, YouTube and Instagram activity. Why do I mention this? What's the point man!? I'm glad you asked! It's because those were all social media sites and messages that we could monitor if we chose to and act accordingly. THAT IS NOT THE CASE WITH SNAPCHAT! POOF EVERY MESSAGE VANISHES IN SECONDS AFTER IT HAS BEEN LOOKED AT! Snapchat messages photos, videos, and text messages disappear after 5 to 10 seconds by default! It takes away a parents ability to insure that their child isn't making the wrong choices online and gives a child 100% privacy and freedom to say whatever he/she wants, take a picture or video of whatever he/she wants TO whoever he/she wants and vice versa. And YOU as a parent will never know if what is being sent is good, silly, bad or horrible. You won't know if they are sexting or getting bullied…. I think you get the picture here. And before you say no way not my kid! Think twice! We thought the same about our Precious Daughter! When we have talked to other parents that have discovered what their precious innocent child was doing online they were all very shocked… They didn’t think it would happen to them either! We were young once too but the margin for error has increased 10,000 fold and extends to the entire world! Not just the kids on your neighborhood block. Protect your kids. Don’t give into these social media trends. Just because all of their friends have it doesn’t mean we as parents have to say YES! We are allowed to say No! I am not saying we examine every single post but a glance here and there doesn’t hurt and in our case it was a wakeup call. I know a 15 to 16 year old teenager who shared a nude with her boyfriend that he could have shared with the whole school and online ahem… aka the world. And I have to say I would never think this girl would ever do something so dumb… Trust is something that is earned and something you can never verify with an app like Snapchat. So Snapchat is not something I will trust in the hands of my teenager. Has our daughter done anything horrible on Snapchat? I honestly have a hard time believing she ever would, but I will never know and that’s my point…..
What other families should know
Easy to play/use
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Safety and privacy concerns