Social Media Management – SnapChat
Like Instagram, Snapchat is one of the image-based social media platforms which is popular with children. One of the key features of Snapchat is that, by default, messages sent through Snapchat disappear seconds after they are viewed by the recipient.
As with Instagram, the minimum age to use Snapchat is 13 but is often used by younger children due to the lack of age verification. A 2022-2023 OSA survey found that 54% of Key Stage 3 pupils were using Snapchat. This was a slight increase on the previous year so, unlike Instagram, Snapchat does not yet seem to be declining in popularity with children.
Snapchat: Areas of concern
The transient nature of messages on Snapchat has made it a popular medium for abuse such as online bullying and grooming as abusers feel they will not be held to account for messages posted once they are deleted. This is supported by the fact that if somebody takes a screenshot of a message posted on Snapchat then the person who posted it is informed that this has happened, making it more uncomfortable for people to take evidence of abuse they have suffered or witnessed.
Thankfully, the default setting of ‘My Friends’ prevents children from sharing ‘snaps’ with users unknown to them. However, the modern culture of wanting to have as many followers as possible and to look popular at all times can result in children adjusting this setting and making their posts public.
Ensure every opportunity is taken to ensure children are aware of the importance of maintaining strong privacy settings.
The Snap Map
In June 2017 Snapchat released a major new feature which allows users to see the live location of their friends on a map named the ‘Snap Map’. This feature can result in children sharing their location (including effectively their home address) with individuals this information should not be shared with. Children should ensure they reduce their vulnerability by hiding their locations by selecting ‘ghost mode’ or at least ‘my friends’ in the Snap Map location sharing settings.
As an example of the abuse of this tool, in August 2021,one teenage boy murdered another after locating him using Snap Map. Learn more: https://www.examinerlive.co.uk/news/local-news/kyle-pickles-who-stabbed-loui-22501212
Related to the concerns about the Snap Map, a recent update now makes it easy for users to geotag their posts and show their exact location when the posted something to SnapChat. Children should be discouraged from using this to reduce vulnerability to risks such as stalking.
Children are naturally more prone to addictive behaviour than adults. As such, the inclusion of features such as ‘Snap Streaks’, where two users share pictures with each other on consecutive days, can result in children increasing their usage of the app and even maintaining ‘streaks’ with people they have since stopped being friends with.
Use for nefarious purposes
Violent youth crime has become an issue of urgent national importance, and Snapchat is increasingly being seen as a contributory factor. “One of the most pernicious influences on this lethal violence is not rap music, the drug trade, or absent fathers, but social media. And the app that keeps coming up in court cases and among youth workers is Snapchat. The app… has become a toxic part of youth violence in Britain” (VICE). https://www.vice.com/en/article/7kvnxa/snapchat-is-fuelling-britains-teen-murder-epidemic
Snapchat is being used to celebrate violent culture, breed tit-for-tat abuse, and to arrange violent attacks.
One area of crime with which Snapchat has become particularly linked is the advertising and sale of drugs. The Children’s Society reported that one in four young people (24%) reported that they see illicit drugs advertised for sale on social media. They also reported that Snapchat was used more than any other social media platform for this purpose.
County lines use of Snapchat
In March 2023, the police warned that Snapchat was the main tool being used by county lines drug gangs to recruit children. https://www.standard.co.uk/news/crime/county-lines-gangs-snapchat-teenagers-metropolitan-police-london-b1066084.html
In July 2022, the NSPCC reported that Snapchat had overtaken Instagram as the most used platfom in cases of sexual communication with a child. It was used in a third of offences where a site was recorded.
Snapchat: Positive changes
Pressure has grown for Snapchat to protect users and the following changes have recently been made:
- New parental controls allow parents to see who their children have been talking to, though not what has been said.
- Snapchat users are able to alert Snapchat when they worry their friends are at risk for self-harm. Children should be encouraged to contact emergency services directly if they feel somebody is at such risk.
- Users aged 13 to 17 will now only receive friend suggestions that have “a certain number of friends in common with that person”.
- Snapchat have removed the ability to use anonymous messaging apps such as Yolo through their platform due to the abuse of such systems for bullying and other negative online behaviour.