Unless you’ve been living under a rock, don’t read the news, or have no internet, you’ve likely heard about all the security issues surrounding Facebook.

You may or may not also know that Facebook is now considered to be for “old people.” That’s right, your kids, or the younger demographic in general, have left Facebook behind.

So what are they using, and have you given them any guidelines when it comes to safety?

Let’s deal with the “what are they using” part first. According to Business of Apps, Snapchat is the ruling social media platform for Generation Z.  That’s anyone born between the mid-‘90s and 2015.

  • US penetration rate among 12-17 year-olds – 92% (Source: eMarketer)
  • US penetration rate among 18-24-year-olds – 94% (Source: eMarketer)

Online safety is becoming more and more of an issue and a subject you’ll have to educate yourself and your children about. Now that we know the chances of your kids using Snapchat are extremely high, here are some guidelines.

A Snapchat security primer

First, let’s explain what Snapchat is and why it has the potential to be dangerous. At its core, Snapchat is all about images: stills or video. You send them to another user, but once opened, they only remain available for a short time. If they remain unopened for 30 days, Snap states that they are deleted from their servers.

So images that your sometimes irresponsible teens might take and send are out there on the internet, and they are only as safe as their Snapchat account.

Let’s make sure their account is safe!

Secure passwords

You would think this is obvious, but it never ceases to amaze us how many people use weak passwords. Things like 1234. Abcd. And then they use that password for everything!

This does not just apply to Snapchat. Every single place you need to use a password should have one that’s completely unique and complex. The minimum number of characters should be 16, but even we’ll admit we don’t always use that many ourselves. However, we always use a minimum of 12 and a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters. Jumble them up! There shouldn’t be any identifiable words in the password.

Read more: How to create a strong password

Two-Factor authentication

Snapchat offers the ability to log in with two-factor authentication. Use it. For that matter, use it on any site that offers it. As an extra layer of protection, it’s great.

Having said that, Snapchat has several caveats about the functionality. If you use it, make sure you check their help files in order to understand under what conditions you might lose access to your account. They’re there for your protection, but you might not think so if one of them happens to you.

Tweak Snapchat settings

Within the settings menu, you can fine-tune who has the ability to contact you or see your Stories.

There’s also a setting to enable or disable Quick Add. Disabling this means you won’t pop up as a suggested friend, similar to what happens on Facebook. There could be six degrees of separation between you and the person Snapchat recommends you to.

Our advice? Turn that feature off.

Is anyone really your friend?

Don’t share your posts with “Anyone.” That means you’re granting access to every single Snapchat user in the world.

When you set up a Snapchat account, the default account setting is to only allow friends who you have added the ability to contact you and/or view your Stories. Assuming you have trustworthy friends, leave the setting at My Friends. If you want to get granular with it, you can use the Custom option.

Turn off the location setting

When you’re initially setting up Snapchat,  you’re given the option of sharing your location. You want to choose Ghost Mode, which means no one can see your location. If you chose something else, go back and change it. Just because your post disappears, don’t think for a moment someone didn’t do a screenshot while it was up.

There are a lot of crazy people on the internet. Don’t make it easy for them to track you down.

Don’t share your username or your Snapcode

There’s something we see all the time in Facebook groups. In groups for games that share lives and energy, you’ll often find people sharing their Facebook username for the sole purpose of getting those lives or energy. They share this info with the world and probably don’t give any thought to the possible danger.

Don’t do that with Snapchat. Anyone who has your username or Snapcode can then add you as a friend. And then they will be privy to whatever you put out there thinking it will soon be out of sight, out of mind.

Use common sense and be mindful of what you post

Unfortunately, this isn’t a setting that can be enabled at will. By nature, kids aren’t always cautious. They’ll often act before they think, and in the case of Snapchat, that could be quite dangerous, especially if the above steps haven’t been taken to ensure a few extra layers of protection at the account level.

This one may be on the parents. You’ve likely taught your kids to be aware of all kinds of dangers, but some dangers lurk in places they might never suspect. That you might never expect for that matter.

And it’s not just dangers. Did you know most prospective employers now check an applicant’s social media? Make sure they know that what they post today may be around to haunt them forever. Because they can’t be one hundred percent positive what they posted is actually gone. Users have the ability to use third-party apps which will let them save Snaps. Or they could just take a screenshot. And you have no idea how those posts could be used against you or your child at some point in the future.

Technology is great, and it’s our belief that we should all embrace it. Make use of it. But respect it. Educate yourself. Be aware of any dangers it might pose.

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