We’ve written a lot about Snapchat, the photo-sharing app that has already caused countless headaches for parents with pornographic spam, revenge porn issues and claims that disappearing photos don’t actually disappear. Now news is breaking that Snapchat has created SnapKidz, a version of the app that is available to kids under the age of 13.
The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) makes it illegal for children under 13 to consent to share their personal information. For this reason, it is theoretically illegal for a child to join a network like Facebook or use Snapchat, although in reality millions of kids are doing it.
SnapKidz aims to get around COPPA by downgrading the typical Snapchat functionality – young users can take snaps and draw or write on them, but they are not permitted to send them to other users. Not being able to share means that Snapkidz is not a network, so all is safe, right? Not necessarily.
As of this writing, SnapKidz is only available for Apple’s iOS, an operating system that makes it very easy to send pictures to other users or post them to the web. When a kid takes a snap, he can write or draw on it, and save the picture to his camera roll. After doing so, he can text or email the picture to a friend, which recreates the same functionality that exists in Snapchat.
It’s a smart move by Snapchat to get kids hooked early, but not one one without risks. In general, letting apps and networks admit users based on self-affirmed check the box age verification is going to end at some point. The government will probably use one of the existing players as a test case for not having good safeguards to prevent under age users. Will Snapchat be the test case? We’ll see.
Contact ThirdParent any time for help and resources for monitoring teen internet activity.