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Making Snapchat work for you

Manage your settings

Snapchat's settings are really basic, but there's one setting that can help a lot: If you don't want just anybody sending you photos, make sure you're using the default setting to accept only incoming pictures from 'My Friends.' Here’s how to be sure:

  • Click the Menu button in the lower right corner to access settings. By 'Send me Snaps,' be sure it says 'My Friends' not 'Everyone.' That way, only people you've 'added' (or friended) in Snapchat can send you a photo.

You can limit who can send you snaps to 'My Friends' only. 

Screen capture is possible

The Snapchat app doesn’t allow users to save photos, but smartphone operating systems do allow users to capture what's on the phone's screen (in a kind of photo called a 'screen capture'). It’s also possible to take a picture of the screen with another camera or camera phone. A computer forensics expert with special skills and tools could also 'undelete' Snapchat images after they've 'disappeared,' but this requires physical access to the phone (it can’t be done remotely) and, for now at least, it’s an expensive and time-consuming process. So it never hurts to remind young people never to snap photos that are illegal, could get them in trouble now or in the future, or would be embarrassing if seen by people like grandparents, future partners or university admissions officers. 

Don't screen-capture without permission. This is basic good manners – to record someone on the phone or capture an embarrassing moment without permission has always been considered rude, and the same is true in Snapchat. If someone shared a photo of you asleep in a car with your mouth hanging open, you'd probably be annoyed. 

You'll be notified (most of the time)

Snapchat lets you know when your message has been opened and – usually – if it has been captured and saved by the recipient. It's 'usually' because it doesn’t work 100% of the time and there are workarounds, including some 'hacks' and the ability to take a picture of the screen with a camera, including a friend’s cell phone camera. 

Protect passwords

Make sure you have a strong, unique password and remind your child not to share their passwords with anyone, even their best friends. If someone has their password, it’s possible for them to impersonate and embarrass them. 

Keeping it real

Snapchat is a service designed for 'real life' friends. It doesn’t enable people to search for new 'friends' as some services do, but there are still ways to find people you don't know (such as finding their Snapchat user name on other services and 'adding' them to your Snapchat friends list). Snapchat has a feature called 'HISCORE' that shows up on users' profiles and indicates their level of activity on the service. It doesn't post HISCORE on a leader board anywhere, so there’s really no reason for kids to try to build up a high score. 

Sexting concerns

Parents worry about sexting – kids sending naked or sexually explicit pictures of themselves – but it’s relatively rare. Still, it can happen. Teens need to know what the implications of sexting are. The best policy is never to take or distribute any images that could get you in trouble now or in the future.

*Update October 2016: Since this article was published Snapchat has added the facility for users to choose how long their snaps stay up on the app. Other new features include creating and sharing stories, video and audio calls. To find out more about staying safe on Snapchat, click here.