The Brief: Snapchat is a popular photo-sharing and messaging app for teens. It's mainly used to send photos and images to friends, which disappear after a few seconds.


What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a photo-sharing and messaging app mainly used to send photos and images to friends, which disappear after a few seconds. This ephemeral app allows users to send edited photos, text, and video to an individual or group. People use Snapchat to communicate with friends, strangers, and groups, as well as to follow celebrities and news.

The application is largely popular among teenagers, partially because of it’s privacy aspects – which are not actually completely private. Although it is used by people of all ages, Snapchat has a reputation of being a young person’s app. This has been attributed to the increase of adults and older people on Facebook and other social media sites, as well as Snapchat’s teen-friendly user interface.

Snapchat was founded in 2011 by then Stanford students Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown. Now, the company has over 200 million users and Snap Inc is a publicly traded company. Recently, Snapchat has seen a decline in its total number of users. This may be because of unpopular updates in the app or Snapchat becoming less cool because more parents are joining.

Main Features:

Snapchat’s features and capabilities are frequently updated. Here’s an overview of the most used ones.

  • Stories: This feature allows users to post pictures or videos for 24 hours onto their “story” so that it is accessible for their friends to view . Users can subscribe to celebrities and watch their daily stories. This feature is similar to Instagram Stories.
  • Discover: The discover section includes content from celebrities and from news outlets. Media companies such as People, NBC, and ESPN ‘s stories often have content featured on discover pages. Sponsored content and ads appear in this section, and can be personalized based on what users have viewed in the past.
  • Photo Editing: These features can be added to photos and videos.
    • Drawing
    • Text can be added in a variety of fonts, colors, and arrangements
    • Gifs 
    • Filters can be displayed over an image
      • Geofilters are location-specific designs.
      • Face Filters can be accessed by tapping on one’s face in a selfie before taking a picture. They add animations to alter one’s face in comical and beauty-enhancing ways.
    • Cut and Paste: pieces of a picture can be cut and pasted in a collage style.
    • Bitmoji is a separate app produced by Snap Inc where users can customize avatars and paste them into Snapchats and text messages.
  • Messaging: Users can send text, video, or photos directly to each other in pairs or larger group chats.
  • Streaks: Snapchat adds different emojis next to a friend’s name when you and a friend have been snapping each other daily.
  • Maps: If users allow it, their friends can see their location on a map. It is easy to opt-out of this feature.
  • Snap Map allows users from around the world to submit photos to be included in local stories, which are then featured on a map of the world that can be explored and viewed by any user.
  • Links can be added to profiles and messages, allowing for easier access to outside sites, including Sarahah.
  • For My Eyes Only is a password-protected folder within the app for private photos and videos.


Snapchat has a reputation for being a sexting app. Although it is not primarily used for sexting, it may be someone’s sexting platform of choice because images “disappear” on the app, and because the for my eyes only section allows for more privacy than a phone’s camera roll does.

Snapchat is designed to have more privacy and discretion than other apps, but users are not immune to invasions of privacy. Snapchats can only be viewed temporarily, but users can still screenshot them. If your Snapchat is screenshotted by someone you sent it to, you will receive a notification. Third party applications can be used to save and collect Snapchats, without notifying the sender. Images and messages are saved on Snapchat’s servers for 30 days before they are deleted. 

Snapchat is allowed for users 13 and up, but it is easy to type in a false age.


Basic internet privacy and safety measures should be employed when using Snapchat. Discretion should be used in what you send, even if it is a private message to a friend.

To prevent teen sexting, talk to your kids about sexting and its risks – especially for minors. Establish rules about what Snapchat should – and should not be used for.

Only accepting friend requests from people you know IRL is the safest way to avoid breaches in privacy, and inappropriate posts. Beware of 3rd party apps connected to Snapchat, as they may be used to harvest data.

I’m a parent. Should I join Snapchat?

Anyone is welcome to join Snapchat. It can be a fun way to consume and share content quickly and semi-discreetly. If you have friends on Snapchat, it’s a great way to connect with them. If not, maybe try apps that your friends use, so that you can have someone to communicate with.

As far as your kids are concerned, if you join Snapchat, they can still control everything that they send (or don’t send) you. Your joining might be seen as a sign that the app is no longer hip – potentially causing them to stop using it – and to start using another app. Many adults have found the app difficult to use, but Snapchat could be the perfect opportunity for you to try out wacky face filters – and to embarrass your kids.