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Many children and teens have embraced Snapchat because it offers cool features like face swap and lenses and because they like to hang around on a social media and messaging app that their parents and teachers don’t really use.

Snapchat offers youngsters a fun way to connect with friends, but like other social media networks, it exposes them to potential dangers such as cyberbullying, age-inappropriate content, scammers and other predators.

The good news is that these risks can be managed. Here are some tips from Alcatel about how parents can help their children have a safe experience on Snapchat:

1.       Even though it’s ‘ephemeral’, Snapchat posts can still be permanently captured

‘Ephemeral’ mobile social media apps—especially Snapchat—are becoming increasingly popular among young South Africans. Posts and messages on these apps disappear after all recipients have seen them, or after a set amount of time has passed.

This may lead to a young user being careless about the photos and information he or she shares, thinking it’s all going to disappear after a few seconds. But other users can use the screenshot facility on their phones to capture an image of a Snap or Chat and share it.

Thus, parents should encourage children to be careful about what they share, especially with people they don’t know well. If they would be embarrassed for their grandparent or a teacher to see their Snap or Chat, they should ask themselves if they really want to post it.

2.       Keep personal information private

Teach your child to be careful about sharing any personally identifiable information on Snapchat. They should never share details like their phone number, home address and passwords with anyone.

3.       Restrict who can contact your child

Snapchat’s privacy settings make it easy for your child to receive snaps only from people who they have added to their contact or friends list. Double check these settings to make sure that the ‘Friends only’ and not the ‘everyone’ option is activated.

  1. Limit who can see a Snapchat ‘Story’

A ‘Story’ is a collection of Snaps that your child can post to the stories section of their account. These Snaps are by default, shared with all friends and can be viewed for a period of 24 hours (unless it is deleted). Use the ‘Who Can’ menu in the settings to block specific friends from seeing certain stories.

  1. Switch off the Snap Map service

Snap Map tracks your child’ current location and places their Bitmoji avatar on a map like a pin, meaning your child’s location can be seen by her friends.  Switch this functionality off in the Settings menu for extra safety.

6.       Block pests and bullies

If your child is being harassed or feels threatened by another Snapchat user, use the block feature to stop them from contacting your child.

In addition to Snapchat, many young South Africans are using other ephemeral apps like Instagram and Facebook Stories and similar principles apply to those apps too. Alcatel advises parents to seek a balance between helping their children understand the dangers of social media and allowing them to have fun with their friends.

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