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What’s Snapchat? And How Are Teenagers Using It?

Snapchat for Parents: The Good, The Bad, And The Ugly

If your teens or tweens have not discovered Snapchat, the latest mobile photo-sharing app, give them a minute or better yet 10 seconds. Because 10 seconds is the average time an image on Snapchat lasts, before it self-destructs. According to founder Evan Spiegel, the highest users are high school students. “We were thrilled to hear that most of them were high school students who were using Snapchat as a new way to pass notes in class—behind-the-back photos of teachers and funny faces were sent back and forth throughout the day.” Your Teen asked two experts to share advice about Snapchat for parents–Sedgrid Lewis, the founder of Spy Parent LLC and Nicole Sellars, Founder of, a website dedicated to featuring today’s hottest technology trends.


Photo-sharing apps have become the most popular way of communicating between teenagers? If you think Instagram is popular, then you haven’t yet heard of Snapchat. The new photo-messaging app allows teens to send pictures with a 1-10 second time limit before the picture self-destructs. Over 110 million self-destructing pics have been shared among users.

Why Teens Love Snapchat

  1. It’s all about the faces. Teens love to make faces – silly faces, happy faces, ugly faces – and Snapchat them to each other. It is a way to increase their self-expression. When other teens “Like” and comment on their pictures, it increases a teen’s self-confidence.
  2. It’s all about cliques. Snapchat allows the user to either import Facebook friends or input user names of friends. This allows teens to Snapchat pics to a group of people within their inner circle. Unlike Instagram, parents are not aware of the app. Thus, Snapchat becomes the perfect online community for teens to communicate without adult monitoring.
  3. It’s all about Sexy pics. The app gives teens the false sense of security that they can sext each other without getting caught. This is the main appeal of the app for most teenagers and young adults. Snapchat has a unique feature that alerts the sender that a screen shot has captured. This is the developers’ way of deterring people from storing unwanted or illicit pictures. The self-destructing feature of the app removes any incriminating picture from the phone.

Why Parents Hate Snapchat

  1. Sex Offenders and Pedophiles. A quick twitter search for Snapchat displays tweets of teens across America using the app for sexting. Parents fear that there are ways to capture sexual pictures that will either incriminate their children or fall in the hands of sex offenders. Sex offenders have been setting up profiles on Twitter to lure teens into sending them nude or semi-nude pictures.
  2. Bullying.  Since the app allows pics to be shared within groups, teens can share derogatory pics with each other throughout the day. Snapchat’s new drawing features allow users to draw derogatory comments next to the picture to send to a user. Snapchat could intensify cyberbullying because more teens would be willing to engage because the picture will sell destruct
  3. Cheating. There are a growing number of teens using Snapchat for cheating on tests. Students quickly take pictures of their test answers and snapchat it to other students in the class.

What Parents Can Do

  1. Education. Parents need to set up ground rules regarding the usage of the app. No inappropriate pictures or language describing pictures. Parents need to discuss the legal implication of Sexting (eg. pornography laws) and cyber bullying.
  2. Monitoring software. Monitoring software such as Irecovery recovers all deleted pics from iPhones and iPod’s. Parents can use this software to perform weekly audits of their teen’s mobile devices to ensure inappropriate pics were not shared.

Sedgrid LewisSedgrid Lewis is Founder of Spy Parent LLC and a national expert on teen surveillance.



Photo customization and sharing are huge trends right now, and I don’t see that dying out anytime soon. Everyone seems to be riding the Instagram wave and trying to outdo each other with more creative ways to share pictures. This means parents really need to have a conversation with their kids about the risks involved with over-sharing.

I recommend that you warn your teenagers: whatever they post will never be private, and, most likely, will never be fully deleted. Snapchat entices kids to share their silly pictures with their Snapchat friends (and the analytics show that teen Snapchat activity peaks during school hours). These images will self-destruct within 10 seconds. The lack of permanency may offer a false sense of security for teenagers who want to send an inappropriate image.  While the app seems like a fun way to share a visual moment with your pals, when abused, it can also be dangerous.

The media has raised concerns about Snapchat and its potential for sexting and bullying. The possibility is highly concerning. Parents must educate their teens on the possible social and legal consequences of sending inappropriate pictures or comments. Snapchat privacy policy allows minors age 13 and up to use the app with parental consent.

Nicole_SellarsWith nearly a decade of news reporting experience, Sellars conceptualized the first digital trend segment for NBC Cleveland where she reported on the latest technology trends making news headlines. Sellars also created and produced a pilot for RCR Wireless News, which transformed the online news leader from traditional print and web to a multimedia news source. 

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