Snapchat attempts to protect kids with new app, SnapKidz

Aug 06, 2013

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Kids hanging out...ON MOBILE DEVICES. #thekesslerschool

Snapchat, a mobile phone app notorious for allowing users to send disappearing text messages, has been known as a sexting app since its debut on the app market last November.  Snapchat's claim to fame is to allow the sending of self-destructing texts and photos—silly, funny, inappropriate—and not worry about where they end up.

Thanks to the disappearing nature of Snapchat texts, many have used the app to send sexually explicit images. Snapchat adds a certain amount of anonymity that creates a "free-for-all" environment. Kids as well as adults are sending and receiving explicit pictures.

Thus far, nothing has been done to protect children using Snapchat. But they are easy targets for predators. A sexual predator only needs a child's user name to send a sexually explicit image.

Most social networks, including Facebook, have a policy stating that users must be at least 13 years old to join. Now, Snapchat has decided to update its usage policy, making it "stricter" to join the community. And, it has created a new app called "SnapKidz."

SnapKidz allows users to take photos, write captions, and draw on them using an in-app marker. The same features of Snapchat are available on SnapKidz—except that pictures/texts cannot be sent.

From a Snapchat blog: "In the new iOS version, kids under the age of 13 are able to fill out the registration form, however their user information is not sent to us and an account is not created. Instead they are able to use “SnapKidz” a version of Snapchat that includes an interface for taking snaps, captioning, drawing, and saving them locally on the device, but does not support sending or receiving snaps or adding friends."

SnapKidz now available for iOS and Android is a good gesture, but those who want to send/receive text messages will simply use Snapchat. Regardless of any published age restrictions, anyone can download Snapchat. As we know, people sometimes lie on social networks.

Instead of relying on app or social network rules, parents need to protect kids, because many times they won't protect themselves or they simply don't know the importance of doing so.  Don't allow your child  to use mobile apps that will expose them to predators.  And sending sexually explicit text messages is a felony in some states.

If your child uses Snapchat, talk with them about being friends with people they don't know. Prevention is part of the key to staying free from sexual predators.

There are parental control software tools to monitor apps on Android devices, such as Net Nanny for Android.  And Apple includes built-in tools to help parents manage the apps installed on an iPod Touch, iPhone or iPad. To read about how to use those tools, click here.