Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?

Snapchat-logoThere is no data available about how many underage users are on Snapchat. That in itself is a problem, but it’s part of the landscape. If you want to lie about your age when you sign up for a social site, you can. In our experience, any kid with a phone can figure it out.

Snapchat’s stated age limit is 13, but since it is the social app with by far the youngest user group – fully 45% of users are under 25 vs. 20% for the other major social networks and apps – we can assume that many kids under 13 are using it. Is it safe for kids? Let’s take a look.

How Snapchat works is pretty simple: users take a photo or short video (a “snap”), annotate it with text or doodles, set the timer for how long the content will be viewable before it “disappears”, then send it to a friend or group. It is very in-the-moment engaging, but there are issues:

Pictures don’t really disappear – Snapchat has backed off the claim that pictures disappear, but users have been carrying on as if they do. What are the risks?

  • According to one forensics firm, deleted pictures are saved in a hidden file in one’s phone. Pictures and video can be retrieved by someone with the correct skill set.
  • The recipient can take a screen shot, although the sender will be notified if she does
  • If the recipient has a jailbroken iPhone, he can save all incoming snaps without notifying the sender
  • The recipient can take a photo of the snap with another phone or camera
  • Unopened snaps are saved on Snapchat’s servers for 30 days

If someone does manage to get a picture that your child sent, it can be posted anywhere online, with or without your child’s knowledge. If your child is not sending or receiving anything untoward, the above issues really don’t matter much, but risks are risks.

No parental controls – Even if you use software downloaded to your child’s phone to monitor his activity, you won’t be able to see what he is sending or receiving via Snapchat.

Location data – In order to use certain Snapchat features, including Filters and Our Stories, users must opt in to sharing their location data. If your tween has Snapchat “friends’ who are actually strangers, this is a risk.

Who are your friends? – When you first download the app, you can build a list of Snapchat friends from you phone’s address book. For the average tween, this shouldn’t be a problem. We have, however, seen far too many examples of young users posting their Snapchat username online, either in forums or in their Instagram or profiles or feeds. This type of friend collecting can be very dangerous.

Questionable behavior is seen as acceptable – Young kids learn by example, and it’s no secret that while Snapchat is not only, or mostly used for sexting, it is the go-to app for sending risqué pics to a love interest. A study published last year found that 1 in 4 adolescents aged 12 – 14 are involved in sexting. Can the 10 – 12 year old crowd be far behind?

In Snapchat’s case the app is not the problem; user behavior is. It’s not much different from other social apps. From the document, “A Parents’ Guide to Snapchat”:

“…there’s no need to panic every time you hear a media report about something awful happening in social media. The reason the news media cover awful situations is because they’re rare. How often do you see headlines about planes landing safely?”

That’s true to a point, but if you are allowing a tween to download and use Snapchat, you are trusting that she is mature enough to keep herself safe from predators and cyberbullies, and to stick to age appropriate behavior. Since that’s a lot to ask of a youngster, we caution parents to wait until kids are older before allowing them to get involved with Snapchat.



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10 Replies to “Is Snapchat Safe for 10, 11 and 12 Year Olds?”

  1. I’m 11 a lot of my friends secretly have snapchat and there parents don’t even know I did it for awhile then I stopped. A lot of kids in my grade have it so that will probably hire the amount of kids that use snapchat

  2. My parents still won’t let me get it I am 13 and I never get in trouble they don’t understand how much I don’t get included into bc nobody uses text messages anymore. I just hope they understand how much I get picked on at school for being the only one in the whole grade without it. And to be honest everyone just uses it to text and connect with people it would be weird to just randomly text.

    1. hey my parents wont let me get it either but everyone!!! makes fun of me and I keep asking them but then my phone got taken away and I cant have it back till school lets out in june but then I will get kik and they said maby I can get snapchat because I have improved on responsibility so girl you not alone

  3. I am 10 and everyone in my class has snapchat and I’m last at everything. Why can’t snapchat be for kids? Many kids use it under age limit and snapchat isn’t doing anything about it.So can’t it be 10+?

  4. I want one but my parents will not allow I had instagram for a week but then deleted it. I’m pretty popular at school but everyone in my “group” makes fun of me for not having any social media. I just want others to know social media doesn’t make you the person you are…you do. So for all those in the same situation as I am just know that I’m with you to!

  5. Ok, so who else went on this website to try to persuade your parents to get you snapchat! I can relate to someone else’s comment…. My parents say that “you still have many texting apps”…. Help Me!

  6. I have snapchat and I am 16. I just want to let everyone who doesn’t have snap yet know that it’s not the “cool” thing. It took me forever to get my parents to let me and I ended up just getting it without their permission. I definitely take it back, I have had many inappropriate and bad experiences. I really don’t thin this app makes you cool if you have it. Think about what you do before you do it!

  7. Hi I’m 11 yes I know I’m underage. But MOST of my friends I have on Snapchat are people I know. If your parents won’t let you use Snapchat I say that if your parents checks it once a every 2 weeks or so you should be perfectly fine if you’re underage! BTW all my friends have it and the underage also!

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