DEEP DIVE

A parents’ guide to Snapchat

Confused by Snapchat? We can help.

If you’re a parent, you may already be aware that Snapchat is a social platform built around messages that disappear after they’ve been read. And that it’s hugely popular among teenagers.

But if you didn’t grow up sending Snaps, the app can be a mysterious thing. Whatever your parenting style, there are Snapchat fundamentals that every parent should be familiar with. Here are a few...

The lay of the land

There’s more to Snapchat than photo and video messages that auto-delete. The app has three sections (not counting the camera home screen that appears when you launch the app). Refer to this cheat sheet if you’re lost: 

• Swipe right for the Friends screen, the messaging side of the app. It’s where your kids will be chatting with friends.

• Swipe left for the Discover screen. This is the platform’s primary news source, and it’s loaded with video stories. (More on that below.)

• Swipe up for Memories, where you can save your Snaps and stories.

Snapchat’s Lenses – which are sort of like digital masks – make for good clean fun.

All the news that’s fit to Snap

The Discover section showcases stories from sources ranging from mainstream media (MTV, Wired, Vogue) to entertainment websites to Snapchat itself, which publishes collections of user-submitted Snaps about certain topics. 

It’s all here: coverage of breaking global crises. Edgy fashion advice. Salacious celeb gossip. It’s worth asking to peek at what you teen is reading and viewing.

You do have some control over the types of stories that surface. To see less of a certain kind, tap and hold a story, then select “See less like this.”

Video stories on the Discover screen cover a range of topics.

Off the map

Be sure to understand and review your teen’s privacy settings. The first stop is the Snap Map, accessible by pinching in on the camera screen. 

By default, Snapchat doesn’t share your location. However, the first time you open the Snap Map, you’ll be prompted to choose whether to share your location with specific friends, all friends or not at all. 

You can see and tweak this in the settings menu of the Snap Map at any time (tap the gear icon at the top right of the screen).

Snap Map displays the locations of nearby friends – and your location too, if you opted in. Locations only update each time you open the app.

Discretion assured

Next, check the Who Can... section of the app’s settings menu. From the camera screen, tap the profile icon at the top left, then the gear icon at the top right, next go down to “Who Can...” Here, you can restrict who may contact your teen, view their story or see their location. 

Also tap into “See Me in Quick Add.” Know that with this setting on, your teen will appear in the Quick Add section for a wider range of Snapchat users, including friends of friends and anyone they’ve been in a group chat with.


Streaks and why they matter

Every time your teen and a friend exchange Snaps with each other within a 24-hour period, they build a “streak,” represented by a fire emoji next to each person’s name on the Friend screen. The number shown is a tally of how many days the streak has lasted.

To teens, streaks matter – and breaking one can be a social calamity. Just something to keep in mind if you decide to take your teen’s iPhone away or limit usage.

The number next to the fire emoji tallies how many consecutive days you’ve Snapped with a friend.

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