The creator of Snapchat has created an extension within the app just for kids under 13, dubbed SnapKidz.
What’s the difference?
Snapchat is a photo and video-sharing app that allows users to send each other timed images/videos, wherein the shared images/videos disappear after 10 seconds or less. Like Snapchat, SnapKidz will also allow kids 13 and under to take images of themselves, with the exception that the sharing feature will be taken offline to prevent minors from sharing their selfie with potentially shady characters. Minors under 13 will be able to edit their pictures and save them locally. Snapchat states that it is currently testing it out on iOS first, and will deploy to other platforms if deemed successful. Users will have to upgrade to version 5.0.1 to gain access to the SnapKidz feature.
Is SnapKidz really meant to protect the young and helpless? In some ways, but the reality is, it’s just Snapchat’s way of living up to standards enacted by the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). The act was put in place to prevent commercial websites/organizations from collecting or disseminating personally identifiable information of children under 13 without parental consent.
Loopholes for kids under 13
When a kid under 13 registers for a Snapchat account, he’ll be asked what his age is. Without any real background check, the child can easily put in falsified information and gain access to the adulterated version—aka, the real Snapchat. Moreover, even if the images are saved locally, kids can easily attach it in an email or transmit it via some other routes. Lastly, if kids have permission to install apps on their own, they can just uninstall the pseudo-Snapchat and reinstall, and then re-enter their fabricated information.
Keep your kids safe
When kids are exposed to technologies like the internet, they’ll want to explore. If gone unmonitored, kids can go astray, and cyber vultures and criminals can swoop in and take advantage of naïve little ones. So what it really boils down to is this: monitor your kids regularly and make sure they understand the risks and temptations of cyberspace. Put parental controls in place where possible, and above all, trust your kids.