The popular Snapchat app is arguably the most popular smartphone app used by young teens. Unfortunately, Snapchat regularly exposes children as young as 13 years old to graphic sexual content in its Discover stories, such as articles on “oral sex etiquette.” Further, Snapchat fails to proactively remove pornography producing Snapchat accounts, which are often used as advertisements for prostitution and sex trafficking.
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.
We are asking Snapchat to take make the following improvements:
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).
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.
Email Snapchat Executives
Get Educated & Be Involved!
- If around youth, learn about Snapchat and Snapcash.
- 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.
- 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 email@example.com.
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Snapchat Discover is a section on the popular app where users see news stories and fluff pieces by mainstream news and online magazine publishers. While Snapchat made it possible Discover publishers to age-gate certain content, Snapchat has not required Discover publishers to be accountable for the messages they send underage audiences. This inappropriately puts the…