Staying safe while using Snapchat
Snapchat is a fun way to keep in touch with friends, but there are some safety features to know about that can help you have a better experience
Written by spunout
Fact checked by experts and reviewed by young people.
Snapchat is an app which allows you to share pictures, messages and videos with friends that disappear after a period of between 1 and 10 seconds when sent to friends, or up to 24 hours on your snap story. Snapchat also allows you to live video stream and add your pictures/videos with event and locations stories.
Deciding who can contact you on Snapchat
By default, only friends, or people you’ve added, can contact you on Snapchat.
In your Privacy settings, you can decide who can contact you. This includes:
- Who can contact you
- Who can send you notifications
- Who can view your story
- Who can see your location
- Who can see you in Quick-Add
You can choose between
- My Friends
If you choose ‘My Friends’, you won’t be able to see Snaps sent to you be people you aren’t friends with. Instead, you will receive a notification saying they added you as a friend. If you add them back, you will be able to view their snap.
If you are in a group, anyone will be able to message you within that group chat, even if they are not on your friends list.
Remember, if you choose ‘Everyone’, this means anyone on Snapchat can view your content, even if they haven’t added you.
Learn more about privacy settings on Snapchat.
Removing and blocking friends
If someone makes you uncomfortable or you want to stop being in contact with someone for any reason, you can remove them as a friend or block them.
To do this, find their name in your ‘My Friends’ list in the app and tap and hold their name.
At this point you can choose to either remove them as a friend or else to block them completely.
You can also access a list of all the people you have blocked. To do this go into the general settings of the app, scroll to the bottom and select blocked. You can see the users you have blocked here, and you can unblock them if you want to.
Reporting something on Snapchat
If you see something inappropriate, upsetting, or something that makes you uncomfortable, you can report it to Snapchat to be reviewed. To do this, press and hold the snap and press the white flag button to report it. Otherwise, you can contact them on the web.
Although Snapchat messages are designed to disappear in 10 seconds or less, there is no guarantee that the person on the other end won’t screenshot the or take a photo of your Snap.
Usually, Snapchat will let you know if someone has screenshot your Snap, but there are some apps that people can use to stop this from working. This means someone could take a screenshot without you ever knowing.
Be careful about what you share on Snapchat, and remember that the things you share will not necessarily disappear forever if someone screenshots it.
Some people might decide to use Snapchat as a way to send sexts or nudes to other users. There are some things to consider before sending sexts.
- Do you feel confident and secure in sending a sext?
- How would you feel if a naked image of you were to appear on social media?
- Do you trust the person you’re sexting?
- Will this person be comfortable with receiving a sext?
Read more about sexting and what to consider before doing it.
Remember, if you are under 18, a sexual image of you will be considered child exploitation material. This means that you and the person you send it too could be in some very serious trouble.
Having a sexual picture or video of someone under 18 years of age, and sending that picture to other people, is illegal and can lead to criminal prosecution. Penalties can include jail time, a fine, and being added to the sex offenders register for at least two and a half years.
If you receive a hurtful message or you think someone is bullying you, here are some things you can do:
- Avoid responding to the message
- Keep the message by taking a screenshot
- Block the sender or change your privacy settings to prevent future contact
- Tell someone you trust about what’s going on
Find out more about what to do if you are being bullied online.
Find out more about staying safe on Snapchat on the Snapchat Safety Centre.
Need more information?
We are here to answer your questions and talk through your options. Our online chat service is for 16 to 25 year olds and is available Monday to Friday, 4pm to 8pm. Chat to us now about your situation.
Snapchat is an app which allows you to share pictures, messages and videos with friends that disappear after a period of between 1 and 10 seconds when sent to friends, or up to 24 hours on your snap story. Snapchat also allows you to live video stream and add your pictures/movies with event and locations stories.
In this section
- What is Snapchat
- How does it work
- Who can send you Snapchats
- Restricting who contacts you
- How to block someone
- What are the risks
- Bullying on Snapchat
How does Snapchat work?
Using the app you take a photo or video with your phone’s camera and send text based messages, you then choose its lifetime for when it appears on another person’s screen and finally, you choose the friends you want to send your Snapchat to. You are in control of some aspects of the app but not all, other users can screen grab your pictures or messages. You are also able to receive snaps from people you don’t know and those you don’t know can see your snaps if you choose to set up your profile in this way.
Who can send me Snapchats?
In order to message someone on Snapchat, you need to know their username and add them to your “friends” list. To view your friends, view who has added you or to add new ones simply click on the ghost icon on the top of the camera page.
When in the ‘add friends’ section, you have a number of options. You can search for friends by username, by granting Snapchat access to check your contacts on your mobile device or by searching for friends using the app near where you are now. Both people need to have this feature open for it to work.
You can also take a snap of someone elses Snapcode to add them. To show yours, simply click the ghost icon on the top of the camera page. To add someone using their Snapcode, simply take a snap of their Snapcode or else go into the ‘Add friends’ page and select ‘Add by Snapcode’. Here you can upload the picture of the snapcode if you screenshotted it elsewhere or if you saved it to your phone.
Add SpunOut.ie on Snapchat!
Profiles can also be set up so that users can receive snaps from people that they don’t know.
How can I restrict who can send me Snapchats?
By default, anyone who knows your username or phone number can send you a message.
You can however, configure Snapchat to only accept messages from users on your “friends” list:
- Go to the settings menu in the app by pulling down the Ghost icon and then selecting the settings wheel on the right.
- Select “Contact me…” or on iOS it’ll say “Who can…View my story”
- Then select “my friends” instead of “everyone” or whatever your preference is.
In this option menu you can also control your “Snap Story”. Your story is different to the once off messages you send. You can send photos and videos to your story where they will stay for up to 24 hours. You can choose to delete things from your story during this period, but other users can screen grab on this function. You can choose to have your story open to just your friends or everyone.
How do I block someone on Snapchat?
To block another user, find their name in your “My Friends” list in the app (swipe the ghost down) and tap on their name. A few options will come up, just tap the settings wheel.
At this point you can choose to either remove them as a friend or else to block them completely.
You can also access a list of all the people you have blocked. To do this pop into the general settings of the app, scroll to the bottom and select blocked. You can see the users you have blocked here.
If you go to Settings -> Support -> Policies & Safety, you can find out how to report spam, safety or abuse issues or impersonators. It works as an email form integrated into Snapchat and asks you to outline as much information about an account or violation as you can.
Another safety feature of Snapchat is their 2 step verification process which helps keep your account more secure. They will send you a text message with a code whenever your account is accessed from a new phone, and you will have to input the code before being able to log in on a new device.
On Snapchat, you can upload image to messages and your story via camera roll. This means you can take a photo with your phone’s camera and upload it to Snapchat at a later stage. Be careful with this though as it can be easy to select images from your photo albums that you might not want to upload. The upside to Memories is that it allows you to add filers and Snap emojis to images you’ve taken outside of the app. Just be careful about images you want saved to your Snapchat app from your camera roll.
My Eyes Only
Saving snaps to My Eyes Only from Memories means that the only way to access them is by entering a passcode. If you forget this code not even Team Snapchat can help you to access them again.
What are the risks involved?
Although Snapchat messages are designed to disappear in 10 seconds or less, there is no guarantee that the recipient won’t screenshot their phone, or if they were really determined; take a photo with another phone/camera.
Snapchat attempts to detect when recipients take a screenshot and if it thinks a screenshot has been taken it will send a notification to the original sender, but this is not guaranteed. Also, there is lots of third party apps & plugins which can be used to bypass the screenshot notification and also the time the snaps can be displayed on screen, for example there are apps which allows users to retain and review snaps indefinitely.
As with any social media, you should always think again about the content and recipient’s trustworthiness before you send a photo or video. If you don’t want to risk someone else seeing it, then it’s probably a good idea not to send it at all.
Snaps which are grabbed can very easily be uploaded to another social media stream, or can be downloaded and edited, so think twice before you snap. If you’re worried about a snap that you’ve sent and that has been screen shotted, it’s a good idea to reach out to someone you trust and, if you feel comfortable, getting in touch with the person who screen grabbed the photos.
Snapchat automatically delete from their servers the photo and video messages you send once the message has been open or expires. Snapchat may keep other content, such as your story, for longer periods of time. Snapchat’s policy is that they keep content which is shared on their public features in order to “offer and improve the services”.
When it was first released, Snapchat was instantly labelled as the ‘sexting app’ and it was assumed all young people were sending pics of their bits to all of their contacts.
This is far from true, but if you do use Snapchat for sexting, here are a few things to consider;
- Before you send revealing photos to your friends, even if you trust them, think about what might happen if you fall out and are no longer friends. Could you be sure the pictures would not resurface on Facebook or Twitter, particularly after you have had an argument?
- It might seem harmless to send a picture to your boyfriend or girlfriend, but similar to friends, what happens if you break up? Can you trust they would keep the photos to themselves?
- No matter how much you might trust another person, you can’t be sure your photo will only be seen by them. If you’re not comfortable with the idea of someone unintended seeing a photo of you, then you should reconsider sending it.
- Mistakes happen, imagine the embarrassment if you accidentally sent a snap to the wrong person!
- The only way to safeguard against your personal photos being publicly shared is by not sending revealing images or videos of yourself to others.
There is also the law to consider;
- Apart from breaking Snapchat’s Community Guidelines, storing or sharing naked images of anyone under 18, including yourself is a serious crime. Click here to find out out more about the laws in Ireland surrounding sexting.
If you receive a bullying, abusive or otherwise unwanted message, these are the steps to go through…
- Don’t reply – responding may encourage further messages.
- Keep the message – if you can, take a screen shot, (which another device if necessary).
- Block the sender – (as outlined above) and/or change your privacy settings to prevent future contact from the individual (see the ‘restricting who can send me Snapchats’ section above).
- Tell someone you trust – If you believe the sender’s behaviour is illegal, talk to a person of authority or your local Garda station for help.