The popular Snapchat app is arguably the most popular smartphone app used by young teens. Unfortunately, Snapchat has exposed children as young as 13 years old to graphic sexual content in its Discover stories, such as articles on “oral sex etiquette,” “Kylie nudes hacked,” “flashing the flesh,” and more.

Further, Snapchat should improve proactively removing pornography producing Snapchat accounts, which are often used as advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking.

2021 Dirty Dozen List

Notable Progress:

We recognize that Snapchat has made improvements to allow Discover publishers to age-gate content, and allowing users to delete specific Discover publishers. We thank Snapchat for discontinuing Snapcash—which was being used to buy and sell pornographic images and videos, often acting as advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking.

Further, in NCOSE’s letter sent to Snapchat in January of 2018, we requested that Snapchat “provide prominent in-app reporting systems for users to report other users that send or promote sexually exploitive content.” We are glad to see that Snapchat has followed up on this request and that there are now ways to report individual snaps for containing “nudity or sexual content” along with other report topics.

Snapchat has also updated its Safety Center with information about how to report harmful content and about tips to stay safe.

Remaining Problems:

We are asking Snapchat to take make the following improvements:

1. To create age-based default settings to stop exposing minors to sexually graphic content in Discover, and to help prevent them from being groomed for sexual abuse on the app. *We believe this is in-progress!*

2. To proactively remove accounts regularly distributing pornography, which at times can include sex trafficking and prostitution ads. Please also take action regarding the countless third-party sites that link to “private” Snapchat accounts that monetize porn and also can be ads for sex trafficking and prostitution.

.@Snapchat please create age-based default settings to protect minors, remove hyper-sexualized content from Discover, and remove accounts promoted by 3rd party sites for distributing porn. Click To Tweet

What is Snapchat?

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows users to send and receive photos and videos, which will disappear after a few seconds of the recipient viewing them. Photos and videos taken with the app are called Snaps. Users can also share Stories. Stories string Snaps together to create a narrative that lasts for 24 hours. To create a Story, a user chooses to add their Snaps to their Story. Depending on their privacy settings, the photos and videos added to a Story can be viewed by either all Snapchatters, just the user’s friends, or a customized group, whereas Snaps are viewed only by a user who is personally sent the Snap from the sender.

Here, here, and here are simple explanations for how Snapchat works. We especially encourage parents to learn more about this app in order to help prepare kids with digital safety guidelines. We also encourage parents to understand the tools their kids are using and to use these tools together with their kids. Visit the NCOSE Resource Center for Parents.

Why is Snapchat on the Dirty Dozen List?

Founded in May 2011, Snapchat is one of the most popular social media tools with 100 million daily active users, 65% of users upload content – snaps or stories. 71% of users are under age 25. A survey of 2014 high school seniors revealed that 46% of them were using Snapchat daily and 77% of college students use the app daily. There are approximately 6 billion daily Snapchat video views (compare that to the much larger Facebook, which has 8 billion video views a day).

NCOSE recognizes that Snapchat’s founder and executives claim the site was not made for the purpose of sending sexts (or nude selfies), though this is disputed by some, and their current Terms of Use (TOU) technically prohibit the sending of pornographic content. Of course, Snapchat only added that to their TOU in 2014 after much controversy. Surveys show that a majority of users use the app most often for innocent picture-conversations. There is good that can come from the opportunity to interact and communicate in the way Snapchat accommodates.

Tech experts and troves of social media users share a different story than Snapchat’s PR team about how thousands of users (mostly young people) are using the app. Since the app’s launch in 2011, thousands of media and tech safety articles (15,000 in Google News Search on 2/22/16) explain that the app is used to send explicit material. Many of the pornographic images on Snapchat are created and distributed by children and many of these images end up on third party websites. Another misunderstanding about the app is that many believe their snaps will remain private. However, Snaps have been hacked and recipients can easily take screenshots to save and further distribute Snaps they have received.

Further, nude images and videos are often sold on Snapchat. Sometimes these posts are advertising pornography, prostitution, or even sex trafficking.

What are the harms of sexting?

The Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) estimates that 88% of self-made sexually explicit images are “stolen” from their original upload location such as laptop webcams or phones. Snapchat, specifically, is not as safe as some believe. The photo “snaps” can be recovered or hacked, and the receiver can take a screen shot and share it with others. Many Snapchat images have found their way on “revenge” porn sites.

Sexting among those under 18 in legal terms is considered self-produced softcore or hardcore child pornography depending on what is depicted, and is therefore liable to criminal or civil prosecution.

Even though sexts are typically self-produced, it is important to recognize that tweens and teens are immature and do not yet have fully developed key psychosocial skills, such as the ability to weigh risks. Additionally, individuals are frequently enticed, pressured, and even bullied by their peers to create and send sexts. In many other instances, predatory adults groom minors by seeking sexual images of, and even sexual encounters with, underage boys and girls.


WARNING: The material in the proof section includes graphic descriptions and blurred screenshots of explicit content in order to show the growing trend on social media of explicit uses of Snapchat. Could be a possible trigger.

Take Action

Email Snapchat Executives

Get Educated & Be Involved!

  1. If around youth, learn about Snapchat.
  2. Have regular discussions with your children about digital safety and your rules surrounding social media. For example: Make sure they are communicating only with people they know and that they realize the pictures they send don’t just vanish forever. Remind them, “Once on the Internet, always on the Internet!” Visit here, here, and here for more resources on teaching digital safety.
  3. Consider using the social media tools that your children use so that you are not only aware of how it is used, but also as a way to show your children you care about their world, and to connect and communicate with them

Share your STORY

Personal stories help elected and business leaders to see the grave harm associated with this material and can be very helpful in getting them to change their policies. All will be shared anonymously. Please email your story to

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Teen Vogue Encouraging Minors to Sexually Exploit Themselves on Snapchat

In mid-March 2020, in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Teen Vogue (which has a troubling history with teenagers and sexual exploitation) posted a Snapchat Discover story about sexting under the guise of helping teenagers sustain their relationships from a distance. In case Teen Vogue has forgotten what a “teen” is: Teen (noun): relating to teenagers…

Screenshots of a Teen Vogue story on Snapchat, which was promoted in Snapchat Discover, that encourages and teaches teenagers to sext.

Meet the 2020 Dirty Dozen List

In 2020, it is intolerable for a mainstream company or entity to facilitate, profit from, or normalize sexual exploitation—and that’s why the Dirty Dozen List exists. This list ensures that their promotion and collusion with sexual assault, sex trafficking, pornography, the eroticization of incest, and more, becomes public knowledge, and equips concerned citizens with information and…

2020 Dirty Dozen List graphic

Oregon Mom Allegedly Used Snapchat to Groom and Rape a 14-Year-Old Boy

The sexual exploitation of minors is a tragic reality for far too many children in our society. In early December 2019, a 36-year-old woman was arrested in Oregon with multiple sex crime charges. The woman, Rheta Melvin, allegedly used Snapchat to message and solicit a 14-year-old boy for sex. The 14-year-old, a student at the…

Rheta Melvin, 36, was arrested for allegedly luring a 14-year-old boy through Snapchat and having sexual contact with him. (Douglas County Sheriff's Office)

Senate Hearing Uncovers Sexploitation in Apps and Social Media

Statement by Dawn Hawkins, Executive Director of NCOSE  Washington, DC – On July 9, The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing with twelve senators and a packed room on the topic of “Protecting Innocence in a Digital World” in order to talk about the predatory targeting, grooming, sex trafficking, hardcore pornography, and more that makes…

Campaign to #FixAppRatings Highlights Danger of Grooming and Sexual Abuse on Apps

Last December, we sat down with survivors of domestic minor sex trafficking. They knew about our work at NCOSE trying to change policies that facilitate sexual exploitation and said they had something they wanted us to understand. The oldest was 15. These young girls shared their heartbreaking stories with us, all of which included the…

fix app ratings

KSL: Grassroots campaign to help protect kids from porn on social media

By Dan Rascon, KSL TV | Posted – Mar 26th, 2019 @ 9:28pm Excerpt from: SALT LAKE CITY — A grassroots campaign is going after social media giants Instagram and Snapchat, saying it’s time to police their rating system of 12+, because teens have too easy access to porn. The campaign will be rolled out…

Parents Beware: Popular Teen Apps Are Improperly Rated

The following is an excerpt from an article by KUTV – Salt Lake City Parents beware: teen-rated apps may not be what you think. What may be rated for 12- or 13-year-old users may actually contain X-rated material. “Honestly it terrifies me,” said Melissa McKay, a Salt Lake County mother of five who is on…

How Snapchat Was Used to Groom and Sell a 17-Year-Old Sex Trafficking Victim

Devin Ashford was charged in Lincoln, Nebraska for sex trafficking of a minor and possession of child pornography. Devin Ashford was arrested for sex trafficking a 17-year-old girl, after the young woman he exploited was able to call her mother for help. This launched a police investigation, and one month later police got search warrants for…

snapchat girl


NCOSE's 2019 Victories and Highlights
snapchat monetized