Snapchat introduces SnapKidz: 4 reasons it does not help parents keep kids safe online

Snapchat introduces SnapKidz: 4 reasons it does not help parents keep kids safe online

Snapchat, the social app that permits users to send pictures and videos that disappear after only a few seconds before "disappearing," has a rule that users need to be 13 years of age. To make sure that the 12-and-under tween market doesn't feel left out, the company just unveiled SnapKidz, which takes the chat out of Snapchat. Right now it's available only for iPhones.

Kids’ photos don’t necessarily disappear in SnapKidz. In fact, quite the opposite. They can be saved to their iPhone's camera roll.  SnapKidz "allows younger users to take photos and videos, add captions and drawings, and save them locally on their mobile device. However, they are not able to create a Snapchat account and cannot add friends or send and receive messages," according to Snapchat’s guide for parents.

SnapKidz is a non-social photo app, and does not include messaging capabilities. It also does not collection or transmit personal information, which under Children's Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA), a federal privacy law, is not permitted for anyone under 13 years old.

So SnapKidz is, in theory, safer than Snapchat. I do like that it takes out the whole "the images disappear in seconds" part of Snapchat, but we all know that nothing on the internet really disappears. Parents were and are rightfully concerned about Snapchat.

But here's why SnapKidz doesn't help parents at all or make the online world safer.

1. Kids will lie to use Snapchat. A child gets access to SnapKidz when he/she goes to Snapchat and enters a date of birth indicating that they are under 13. So a child only needs to fudge their birthday to get access to SnapChat. Millions and millions of kids lie about their birthday for access to social media, many with parental knowledge and permission. This does not seem likely to stop that. Snapchat does say that if it "obtains knowledge that a user is under the age of 13, it is our policy to terminate the account and delete any personal information associated with that account." Anyone heard of that happening to a tween user? Not me.

2. Kids can lie after the fact: If a parent signs up with a child using the proper birthdate, there's still no guarantee that your kid won't go back and lie later. If a child wants to use the regular Snapchat instead of SnapKidz, he or she can delete the app, re-install it and sign up for a new account with a false birth year.

3. Photos and videos can still be shared. If a tween does use SnapKidz, it can take the photos and videos saved to his/her phone and share through any number of other channels. Most kids with an iPhone have the ability to text, email, Instagram, tweet or share a photo via Facebook.

Kids love SnapChat for the social aspect and the "these images will self-destruct." (Let's face it, so do plenty of adults.) Taking those away takes away the allure of SnapChat. Kids will quickly realize that SnapKidz is a version of photo booth or has the same features they can access on sites like PicMonkey. They aren't going to stick around SnapKidz for long.

4. There is no substitute for parental supervision and guidance. None. I worry that parents have a false sense of security with claims that "photos cannot be shared." Parents still have to be exceptionally vigilant. There is no app or kid-friendly version of an app that will make the Internet completely safe. Parents absolutely must to your kids, monitor their devices and accounts. Parents must teach kids to be safe online and to be good digital citizens.

Side note: Am I the only one who hates words that end in "z" like SnapKidz?

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