Snapchat Safety Guide (2023): What Parents, Educators, & Students Need to Know

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September 22, 2022

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What are the top dangers of Snapchat for teens?

  • Predators - easy connections to strangers & Snapmap dangers
  • Screen time addiction - gamification of staying on the app with Snapstreaks
  • Bullying - easily spreads at school with no way to prove who is involved with “disappearing” messages
  • Access to drugs - rampant on the app
  • Mental health - creates unrealistic image expectations with selfie filters & editing

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This is great info, thanks for giving me some ideas on how to start a dialogue with my teen!


Sharon M.

Parent VIP Member

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Josh's presentation about social media was unbelievably fantastic. Our students learned so much about what kids should and shouldn't be doing. The fact that it is such a thoughtful process made it all worthwhile.


Director of College Advising

Educator Webinar Attendee

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This webinar is a very helpful eye-opener on the apps that are popular with my students.


Irene C.

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Table of Contents

It’s wildly popular and potentially dangerous. Snapchat is now among the top most used apps for teens. In this app guide, you will learn 1) why students love being on the app so much, 2) dangers parents and students should talk about, and 3) tips to have fun on snap chat and stay safe.

Educators and parents: Start a discussion with your students about this topic using the SmartSocial worksheet!

Click here to access the Google Doc worksheet

(Log in to your Google account to "Make a Copy" of this document to edit and save.)

What students think of Snapchat (videos)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home.)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home.)

Need more videos for students? View these student interviews

Quick tips for the Snapchat app (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home.)

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. Tips to avoid predators
  2. Tips to have fun and stay safe
  3. Tips for students & parents to work together
  4. Tips for parents

Parent, student, & educator video

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home)

Students: Download this pdf to follow along with the video

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. Danger 1: Predators & Snap map
  2. How to turn off Snap map
  3. Tips to avoid predators
  4. Danger 2: Bullying
  5. How to report a safety concern
  6. Danger 3: Screen time addiction
  7. Set Snapchat's notifications
  8. Tips to have fun and be safe

Examples of Snapchat dangers (video)

(This student-friendly video can be shown in the classroom or at home.)

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. Bodily injury
  2. Not who they say they are
  3. Predators looking for teens/tweens
  4. They want your photos
  5. Blackmail & account takeovers
  6. Cyber bullying

Parents guide to Snapchat (video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What is Snapchat?
  2. Danger 4: Access to drugs
  3. Tips to talk about drugs with your students
  4. Danger 5: Mental health
  5. Settings walk through
  6. Hiding something? My Eyes Only
  7. What can parents do?
  8. Notice when things are "off"
  9. Tell us what you think!

The Psychology of Snapchat: Expert tips (video)

(This parent and educator video is best to be shown to adults)

What we're covering in this video:

(Click on a blue dot in video progress bar to skip to a chapter)

  1. What students think of Snapchat
  2. Why do students want to be on Snapchat?
  3. FOMO is a natural behavior/thought
  4. How to have fun and keep Snapchat safe
  5. How the app works and how to make it safer
  6. How parents can talk to kids about the dangers?
  7. Not all filters are bad
  8. "I don't have time for Snapchat"
  9. What should the time limit be on Snapchat?
  10. Parental monitoring-not just the software
  11. Don't lose sight of the positive

What is Snapchat?

  • Snapchat is a popular photo, video, audio, and live messaging app that uses camera lenses and filters to create a snap
  • Snap Inc and the Snap team say they are a camera company
  • The app is popular because of the private messaging feature that allows users to send private video, audio, or photos to one another that “disappear” after being viewed
  • Users capture a moment with a photo and enhance the memory even more to share it with others
  • Posts are called “Snaps.” Snaps can be sent to a user’s Story, to their friends in one-on-one chats, or to group chats
  • The app is known for its filters which create effects over photos or videos. The most popular filters change the user’s appearance 
  • The app is made up of these features: Map, Chat, Camera, Stories, and Spotlight

Who is Snapchat for and where is it based?

Why should parents & educators care?

  • The app is very popular with students
  • Snapchat is highly addictive, especially with the Snapstreaks feature that encourages users to Snap with their friends often 
  • There are many reports of predators using Snapchat (and the Snap map feature) to target and solicit minors in person, in real-time
  • Due to Snapchat saying that Snaps are temporary, many teens might post riskier content than on other social networks
  • Content in the Discover feed can be inappropriate for tweens and teens and include content that talks about self harm, adult content, or Snapchat offers that young people are not ready to see

What do students think of Snapchat?

  • All of the info disappears 
  • The snaps can’t be downloaded by their friends 
  • It doesn't matter who they chat with through the app
  • It’s harmless to send silly photos and fun to use the filters to create snaps
  • Other apps can’t access Snapchat data
  • Many parents aren’t on Snapchat
  • Young people like using features like face swap, watching videos, using photo editing tools with their mobile devices, in a fun way

The top dangers for teens/tweens

  • Predators - easy connections to strangers & Snap map dangers pose a risk to teen's privacy
  • Screen time addiction - gamification of staying on the app with Snapstreaks
  • Bullying - easily spreads at school with no way to prove who is involved with “disappearing” messages
  • Access to drugs - rampant on the app
  • Mental health - creates unrealistic image expectations with selfie filters & editing

What can parents & educators do?

  • Before giving your child access to any of the popular social media apps, download it, create your own Snapchat account, and spend some time using it, then determine if the app is safe for your family
  • ~Ask your student to teach you how to create an account, a bitmoji, how to send them a Snap and how Snapchat works
  • Walk through the app settings with your student to help them understand safety issues and long-term consequences of who sees what they are sharing
  • Have regular discussions and look at your child's account to learn about what they are seeing, who is on their friends list, and who they are interacting with
  • Remind your students that their online activity (even Snapchat posts that will disappear) can impact their reputation
  • Ensure your students that they can always talk with a trusted adult (like you, a teacher, or a school counselor) if they see something that makes them feel uncomfortable
  • Take an interest in why your students enjoy Snapchat and their preferences of what they see and do
  • If you haven’t already, watch our student & parent video together to help start the process of working together
  • Start dialogues about predators and drugs online
  • Listen to your gut-if your kids seem “off,” don’t wait to get help!
  • Consider using connected technology like parental controls on your student's device and talk to your kids about what you monitor
  • ~Note that many parents report that parental controls don't always catch all text messages or concerns through Snapchat
  • Continue to remind students to never share personally identifying information like their birth date, their location, or to rely on ghost mode to protect them from getting in trouble

Start an open and honest dialogue: A guide to Snapchat from people who work at Snapchat

  • Can I see what your Bitmoji looks like?
  • Do you want to create a family private Story or Group Chat for us?
  • What filter do you use the most?
  • Which Discover show is your favorite? Which ones will I like?
  • Who is your longest Snapstreak?
  • Where does a Snap go when I save it?
  • Read more from Snapchat here 

What some parents say about Snapchat

New Snapchat Discover Stories regularly have sexually explicit images and articles -- not for kids! We decided to let our oldest daughter (13 at the time) have the popular app, Snapchat a year or so ago in the context of sending fun filtered videos and pictures to her trusted friends....Many have steamy almost nude graphics which are visible before snapchatters click through. This is the norm, not the exception...The app says it is appropriate for kids ages 12+ but in my opinion as a parent, this is definitely not the case! If you are considering for your tween/ teen, I recommend opening an account first for yourself and monitoring the articles for a week or so. Then decide what you feel is appropriate for you family.

Common Sense Media

Myth: Snaps disappear!

  • While a Snap may no longer show in your app after everyone has seen it (or it expired from your story), others may have screenshot it and shared the photo/video
  • You do get a notice when someone uses their device’s screenshot to save your Snap, but you don’t know if someone has another device or camera and has taken a picture to share with others off Snapchat!
  • Also, what we put out there could hurt some of our closest friends if it is about them (or they weren’t invited to an event)

Why is Snapchat addictive?

  • Apps make money when they can show their advertisers they have users who open the app and engage with the app every single day, multiple times a day
  • Snapstreaks keep us engaged and make us feel like we have to open the app to keep our streak 
  • Snapstreaks are an artificial way of showing friendship. If you are stressed, it’s ok to let your “Snapstreaks” end and spend that time elsewhere

Tips to avoid Snapchat addiction

  • Set daily time limits for yourself using parental controls or your device's screen time management controls
Snapstreak example
  • Establish “no-Snapchat time” blocks for yourself (like 10 pm-7 am)
  • Be honest about how much time you really spend on Snapchat in a day!
  • Review screen time reports on your device to get a real check
  • Use Apple or Android settings to monitor/block the app for your limit
  • Review your friends list often and delete people you don't know in real life, or you don't need to be in contact with through a social media app
  • Find others who are on Snapchat often to help keep you accountable for your goals--Tell your friends what your goals are so they know!
  • Never share your password with a friend, even if they promise to keep your Snap streak alive when you aren't able to use the app

Should parents be on Snapchat or other social media platforms as a family activity?

  • Students said they like that their parents are on Snapchat and it helps prevent them from doing something bad that could hurt their future
  • However, students said their friends might not want their parents to follow them and know their boundaries
  • Students ask parents to not comment "I love you" or "Have a good day sweetie" as it makes them feel uncomfortable in front of their Snapchat friends (maybe send them text messages instead!)
  • Students said they were OK with parents posting family photos online

How does Snapchat work? Important Snapchat features, settings & parental controls

Note: Some screen shots may be slightly different for Android devices, but instructions are similar

How to turn off Snap map

Snapmap example

When a user has Snapmap activated, Snapchat will share their location in real-time every time they check the app 

1: Tap on the map in lower left corner

2: Tap the gear icon in the top right corner

3: Toggle Ghost Mode on

4: Tap “Until Turned Off”

If you must keep it on, select only real friends to share it with

How to have fun and keep Snapchat safe

  • Don’t talk to strangers - only accept friend requests when you are positive you know the person
Safety Snapshot Example
  • NEVER send nude pictures - snaps might never truly disappear!
  • When you see someone else’s photo, remember that they probably used a filter to make them look that way 
  • Set time limits together - consider when to keep it off completely and set your Apple or Digital Wellbeing controls together
  • Snap or play games together as a family!
  • Share with your parents what you like/don’t like about the app– keep a 2 way discussion going
  • Report bullying when you see it to help stop it

Branding your profile

Chat example
  • Create a username that you are proud of others seeing
  • Build a bitmoji to complete your profile
  • Never assume a photo or video completely disappears when you post it on social media
  • Tell your story with your snaps
  • Highlight your hobbies
  • Share family moments
  • Teach something new
  • Share something funny
  • Review your list of friends and consider removing anyone you don’t know in real life
  • Only follow people who are positive

New friends

Our recommendation is to approve only people you know in real life and people you would consider "real friends" regardless of connections on social media platforms

Don't allow your account to automatically add friends to your list

1: Just press Chat in the bottom of Snapchat 

2: Tap on the + symbol next to the silhouette

3: Accept requests or Add friends from contacts (tap the x to hide that user)

4: Tap Add friends icon in the upper right corner of the app to access your friends list

5: Review your list and make sure your list contains only trusted friends

How to remove Snapchat friends

1: Tap on your bitmoji/headshot in the upper left

2: Review your list of friends and click on a friend you want to unfollow

3: Click on their bitmoji

4: Tap on the 3 dots in the top right

5: Remove them as a friend, block them, or make any other adjustments you need

Consider using Two-Factor Authentication

Two-Factor Authentication will help slow down hackers who want to try to access your account without your permission

1: Under Settings, tap “Two-Factor Authentication”

2: Set up login codes to be sent via SMS or download an app like Duo to create these codes

Note: Don’t share your password with anyone other than your parents

Snapchat permissions on your device

  • Snapchat requests permission to use your microphone, camera, access to your contacts, and more
  • Be aware of all of the access you are giving Snapchat and work with your parents to decide what is safe
  • If possible, don’t upload all your contacts, as they will use that to market to your friends

Cyberbullying on Snapchat

According to

  • Cyberbullying includes a repeated action of sending, posting, or sharing negative, harmful, false, or mean content about someone else 
  • It can include sharing personal or private information about someone else causing embarrassment or humiliation 
  • Some cyberbullying crosses the line into unlawful or criminal behavior
  • Cyberbullying online can create evidence for local law enforcement should more problems exist

Know how to Report a Safety Concern on Snapchat

Note: Always know that you can go to a trusted parent/adult if you see something bad online

1: In Settings, scroll to SUPPORT

2: Tap on “I Have a Safety Concern” if anything makes you uncomfortable

Other ways to Report a Safety Concern

Reporting on Snapchat
  • Remind your school/staff they can work with students to report fake/bullying accounts
  • Report a Story: press and hold the offending Snap until a white flag to report Snap button appears.  Tap it to report the story
  • Report a Snap someone sent you: press and hold the Snap until the report Snap button appears. Tap it to report the Snap
  • Report a Snapchat account: press the Snapchatter’s bitmoji, tap on the three dots, manage friendship, tap ‘Report’ to report the account
  • To hide something on Discover: press and hold a tile on the Discover screen, then tap ‘Hide this content’

How to block or unfriend a bully

  • Blocking another user makes it so they cannot see your publicly shared content
  • Unfriending a user means they can still see what you share publicly 

How to Block another user 

Note: If you or your friend have been bullied by another user, save a photo of those messages BEFORE blocking the user

1: Tap on the user’s bitmoji

2: Tap the 3 dots in the top right

3: Tap “Block” in the menu 

4: Tap “Block” to confirm

How to find and set Privacy Controls

Privacy settings

1: Open Snapchat, tap on your headshot/bitmoji in the top left, then tap on the gear icon in the top right

2: In Settings, scroll to “PRIVACY CONTROLS…”

3: Consider changing “Everyone” to “My Friends” for Contact Me and View My Story

4: “See My Location” is another way to activate Ghost Mode for Snap map

5: Tap on “See Me in Quick Add” to turn the feature off, so random people can’t follow you

Set up which notifications you want to receive

Snapchat features WILL be distracting! Default notifications will be sent regularly and often

1:  Under Settings, tap “Notifications”

2: Tap “Enable Notifications” to go to your phone’s settings for Notifications  

3: Consider disabling all notifications in your phone’s settings so you are in control of your Snapchat time

Snapchat Stories

  • Instead of a private message, a story allows teens to share a photo/video publicly for friends to see
  • Each story is visible only for 24 hours
  • Young users can easily see popular stories that may include mature content
Snapchat stories example

1: Friends: Friends stories can be set to private and only visible to other friends

2: Subscriptions: Stories from groups the user has subscribed to

3: Discover: Stories from brands or sponsored ads and often shows inappropriate content

Settings for sharing Snapchat Stories

1: Next to "Add to My Story," tap on the three dots to see story settings

2: Tap "Story Settings"

3: Consider allowing only friends to see your story content

Why might Snap Games be dangerous?

  • Snap Games can be fun, especially if you can play with or compete against your friends/family
  • However, games make us more addicted to being on the app and competing for the best score
  • Be cautious about what data you allow the games and other users to see (again, don’t allow Snapchat to see the contacts on your phone)
  • Think about who you are playing with…remember a stranger who says they are your age might be much older and they can try to build a friendship to learn personally identifiable information about you

Tips from Snapchat safety

How Snapchat contributes to negative mental health

  • Encourages addiction to technology because students don't understand gamification
  • Features promote FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) if they don't visit the app enough
  • Students are comparing themselves to snaps created with augmented reality (aka filters) that are not realistic in real life

How to help combat student mental health problems

Encourage students to be involved in other activities:

  • Sports or exercise
  • Reading books or printed media
  • In-person social interactions
  • Clubs, tutoring, or religious activities
  • Connect with mental health experts: School counselors, pediatricians, psychologists or therapists

Tips to talk to kids about drugs

5 conversation goals from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration

  1. Show you disapprove of underage drinking and other drug misuse
  2. Show you care about your teen's health, wellness, and success
  3. Show you're a good source of information about alcohol and other drugs
  4. Show you're paying attention and you will discourage risky behaviors
  5. Build your teen's skills and strategies for avoiding drinking and drug use

Are your students hiding something with saved snaps?

My Eyes Only
  • “My Eyes Only” in Snapchat allows users to move Snaps and Stories so only the user can save them and see them with a passcode
  • Talk to your student about what they would want to save in “My Eyes Only” 
  • Remind students that there are easy ways to “hack” a passcode, so nothing is ever completely private online!

How to check for “My Eyes Only”

From the Snapchat camera screen on your student’s device:

1: Swipe up from the middle of the screen

2: From the Memories screen, swipe left to get to the “My Eyes Only” tab

Recommend a Snapchat friend checkup

“This feature could help make the platform safer for users, if they choose to use it. It could be a good way to help you realize you might still have somebody friended that you don’t want to see your posts. And I know there’ve been plenty of times when I’ve looked at a friend or follower of mine and said ‘I have no idea who this person is...’ The Verge

Parents & teachers: Notice when things are “off” with a student

You know your kids the best. If you start to notice any of these concerns, increase the frequency that you talk with them and maybe seek professional help:

  • Increased anxiety, fear, or anger
  • Students avoid conversations (more than normal) about social media
  • They avoid using their devices they normally love
  • They withdraw from in-person friends or activities
  • Changes in school behavior

Are your students struggling to understand the dangers?

  • Don’t give up! They may not be ready to talk the first time you bring it up!
  • Remind them who their trusted adults are so they can talk to you/them if they need help
  • Have them watch our Student lessons showing real-life examples of Snapchat dangers

Examples of Snapchat dangers from news stories

The Denver Post headline: Cherry Creek High student who died by suicie was threatened, encouraged to kill himself by "bullies," mother alleges. Police are investigating "any allegations of bullying related" to Jack Padilla's suicide, district officials say
[The] student's mother said] she found out about the bullying, some of which happened through messages over the Snapchat social-media platform. Denver Post
AZ headline: "Joke" on Snapchat results in arrest of 15-year-old student in Buckeye
'This kind of a joke, which is not funny, can have tremendous implications for his education as well as legally,’ said Buckeye Police Department Public Information Officer Donna Rossi. ‘He is looking at possible misdemeanor charges. There are cases where this can be a felony.' Buckeye, AZ
WCNC headline: suspects use Snapchat to threaten teen girl at school to send pictures of herself
Police say the suspects contacted the 14-year-old victim on Snapchat implying they had photos of her and would release them if she didn’t send more. WCNC
ABC News 8 headline: Multiple agencies work together to arrest Snapchat child predator
Multiple law enforcement agencies came together to solve an investigation where a man was offering indecent proposals to a 14-year-old girl. Tulsa Police Department detectives posed as the intended victim in an undercover operation through Snapchat. KTUL
WCNC headline: Predators target underage children on Snapchat
A man was arrested for sending naked pictures through Snapchat to an underage girl...[A middle school student] said kids at school will sometimes delete the app before they get home to hide what they're sending socially from their parents. WCNC
USA Today headline: Perfect selfies are all over Facebook Instagram and Snapchat. They're killing us
Experts say that obsessively curating our social media profiles and using filters is changing our perception of ourselves. At its most extreme, this fixation on appearance can manifest in a mental health condition that's being referred to as ‘Snapchat dysmorphia.’ USA Today News 3 headline: truck driver accused of victimizing underaged girls from Union County
In this particular case, the defendant has used that snapchat map to track down some of our victims, to show up where they are at unexpectedly, unannounced, simply by opening snapchat showing they are right here’... WSILTV
Investigators discovered Mendez used images of someone else on his Snapchat and Instagram accounts to meet the girl. CBS12
'Something seriously dangerous,’ Bayless said. ‘That’s what’s happening. These parents don’t know this is what’s happening right now in this group chat.’ KSNT
Pick up your child’s phone if they have a Snapchat and look at it. KSNT

More advice and Snapchat resources for parents, students, & educators

"My daughter was bullied on Snapchat" (video)

VIP Course: Student Overview: Learn the hidden features of TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, iPhones, Androids, and more (For students, parents, & educators)

Negative Effects of Snapchat for Teens

More advice from experts: How to Make Instagram & Snapchat Safe for Students

View more student interviews about Snapchat

Listen to MomTalk podcast to hear Beth and Andrea discuss Snapchat


At SmartSocial, we believe Snapchat can be fun for students if they are using it responsibly. Parents should stay vigilant and closely monitor exactly what their kids are doing on Snapchat to help keep them safe.

Comment below to let us know what you think, what you learned, or if you have any other questions the SmartSocial team can help you answer!

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