If you’re not familiar with Snapchat, chances are your kids already are. The app gained popularity and notoriety for its signature feature that causes texts, pictures, or videos to self-destruct after up to ten seconds once they’ve been viewed. (Sidebar: Messages are never truly erased, but that’s a whole different article.) Because of the stigma attached to Snapchat as the world’s best “sexting app”, they’re looking to do a little re-branding by offering a new version – to your children.
SnapKidz is Snapchat for the under-13 set, and promises all of the fun of the adult app with none of the bad stuff that comes along with it. If used properly, SnapKidz is simply a photo-editing app that lets your kids take a picture and add some graphic doodles to the image. The ability to share the picture through the app has been eliminated with this pre-teen version. But as with most technology these days, there are loopholes to get around the rules. Here’s what parents should know:
There is no real age verification: SnapKidz is accessed through the original Snapchat app. When you download Snapchat and create an account, the app asks you for your age. You can literally enter any age you’d like. If the user is under 13, they are taken to SnapKidz; otherwise you’ll get full access to the Snapchat app. Even if you’re standing over your kids shoulder when they create their account, they can delete and re-download the app and use whatever age they choose. There is also nothing stopping child predators from posing as twelve-year-olds either.
Kids can still send pictures anyway: Even though the ability to send photos has been disabled in the SnapKidz app, the photos are still saved to the smartphone’s camera roll. That means that kids can email or text them to whomever they chose. And this time they don’t even get the chance for any incriminating images to self-destruct, because they didn’t send them through the app in the first place.
I’m all for exposing children to technology early, but I’ma have to give two thumbs down on this one. Kids are already impulsive creatures by nature, and the false sense of security they have in believing their questionable behavior will just go away after a few seconds can make them even more so. The overwhelming popularity of Snapchat, with 150 million images shared daily, and a recent $800 million valuation probably means it’s not going away any time soon. Obviously I’m in the minority with this, but I don’t believe either version of this app is appropriate for children under 18. *drops mic*
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