Dr. Henry Paul, MD

Psychiatrist, Author and Educator


June 22nd, 2015

40346551_sSnapChat is a video messaging application that allows users to take photos, record videos and add text and drawings to messages that they send to their personal lists. The appeal? These conversations are disposable and temporary. The fact that the message “self-destructs” after seconds is what is so appealing to teenagers. How appealing? According to Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel, he said at the 2013 All Things D Dive into Mobile conference that “…there are about 150 million photos shared via Snapchat daily.” Wow! And that was in 2013!

Snapchat is all about pictures and conversations. Snapchat always starts with a “flash.” Simply, you take a picture. You add text. You set how long before the picture self-destructs – between one to ten seconds. You choose recipients from your private list. You hit send!

But, something that appears so simple has raised a lot of questions and concerns for parents and educators. Social media is a parents’ greatest online fear. We all know that bullying, sexting, sexual predators are just some of the dangers that immediately come to mind when we think about kids and social media. In response to the growing concerns, Snapchat created the Snapchat Safety Center. I highly recommend that you check it out.

Parents should be aware that in accordance with the U.S. Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) that the minimum age for using Snapchat is 13 years old. If a child younger than 13 tries to access the system (assuming they put in their real birth date), they will be redirected to a kid’s version called SnapKidz. This allows the users to save their photos only to their devices and doesn’t allow for them to send them.

40187911_sTeenagers are drawn to Snapchat because of its ease of use and the fact that the photos do NOT live online forever. Something that not only teens, but all of us should think about when posting online. Never assume that something has truly vanished forever. Reports stemming back to 2013 confirm that you CAN retrieve deleted Snapchat’s on Android devices. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

Look, I always recommend to parents to keep the line of communication open with their kids. So, talk with your kids about Snapchat. Let them know that you know about it and that you have concerns about their safety. Talk with them about what is appropriate to “snap” and what isn’t. Let them know they should report inappropriate use that they see (i.e. bullying, sexting, etc.) either to you or to a school official or another adult they trust. As much as it is fun to “live in the moment” there are precautions to take.

For more on safe guidelines for Snapchat visit A Parent’s Guide to Snapchat.  Here is also a link to COPPA and links to the Forbes stories that explain both SnapChat and SnapKidz.

What is Snapchat and Why do Kids Love it and Parents Fear It?  Forbes 2013

Snapchat Creates SnapKidz — A Sandbox For Kids Under 13 Forbes 2013


This blog is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended as medical or psychiatric advice for individual conditions or treatment and does not substitute for a medical or psychiatric examination. A psychiatrist must make a determination about any treatment or prescription. Dr. Paul does not assume any responsibility or risk for the use of any information contained within this blog.


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