How Safe and Private is Snapchat?

Last updated: February 2, 2016 - 10:22am EST

Is Snapchat safe?

Snapchat is somewhat safer than certain other popular social media websites and social networking tools, because it only allows people to view content for a limited amount of time.  However, there are certain ways to get around this system, one of the simplest of which is to take a screenshot of content.

Snapchat's system for automatically discarding messages after a certain amount of time can also work against its safety.  It makes it tough to build a paper trail of evidence against someone who is sending snaps or chats meant to threaten, harass, or otherwise annoy another user (or users).  Rest assured, though, Snapchat does not tolerate this sort of behaviour, and there are steps that you can take to protect yourself from people who engage in it, and also point them out to Snapchat.  We'll get to those below.

Top 5 safety tips for Snapchat

1. Make sure that your Snapchat account is used by you and you alone.

Your Snapchat account is meant to be used by you, so don't let anyone else use it.  Log off when you're done using Snapchat (see our How to Use Snapchat tutorial to learn how), and be sure to create a strong, unique password for your Snapchat account.  See our How to Make a Strong Password and How to Manage Passwords tutorials for further help.

2. Abide by Snapchat's community guidelines.

You know your friends better than we do, so don't use Snapchat to send content to them that they wouldn't like.  In general, don't send content over Snapchat that:

- is pornographic or sexually suggestive (especially when minors are involved)
- is intentionally offensive, insulting, or threatening toward the recipient
- invades someone else's privacy
- deceives someone into thinking that you're somebody else
- depicts you or anyone else engaging in dangerous or harmful activity
- depicts any sort of illegal activity

3. Use discretion when sending content over Snapchat.

Our number one tip to remember for using any kind of social networking service is this: once you share something, it's by-and-large out of your control.  Although Snapchat deletes snaps and chats a short time after they're viewed, there is nothing to stop someone from taking a screenshot of a snap or chat. They can do this through their mobile device's internal mechanism, an external camera, or even third-party software.  So before you post something on Snapchat, ask yourself: "would it come back to haunt me if somebody kept this, and perhaps shared it?"

4. Use your privacy settings to control who can view your content on Snapchat.

You can adjust settings in Snapchat that allow you to receive snaps from -- and have your "story" viewed by -- anyone on Snapchat, or just people whom you have registered as "friends".  You can also block certain friends from viewing your "story", if you want.  See the section below to learn how to adjust them.

5. If someone is making you uncomfortable, block and report them.

In the unfortunate event that another Snapchat user repeatedly sends you chats or snaps that are upsetting (or at least just annoying), you can stop them from sending you snaps or chats, or from viewing your "story".  You can also report their behaviour to Snapchat, which may result in them being banned from Snapchat (either temporarily or permanently, depending on the nature and frequency of their offence or offences).

For instructions on how to block a user on Snapchat, click here.

To report a user to Snapchat, go to their Safety and Abuse section, click Report Spam, Report a Safety or Abuse Issue, or Report Impersonation (depending on the user's offence); fill out the form, and then click Send.

Is Snapchat private?

Snapchat is definitely more private than other popular social networking tools.  Users can set the amount of time that other users are allowed to see the content that they send over Snapchat.  In addition, users can choose who can send them content, or view the snaps that they put into their "stories".

Note, however, that (as we mentioned above) other Snapchat users can save "chats" that you send them, or take screenshots of "snaps" that you send them.  In addition, Snapchat will keep snaps and chats that haven't been viewed for up to 30 days before deleting them.  Also keep in mind that snaps added to your "story" will not expire until 24 hours have passed, and can be viewed an unlimited amount of times in that period (unless you manually delete them).  See our Snapchat Stories tutorial for more information.

How to adjust your Snapchat privacy settings

  1. Turn on your mobile device, tap Snapchat to open it, and log in.  (See our How to Use Snapchat tutorial for help with this, if you need it.)

  2. Tap the ghost icon in the top-middle of the main screen to access your profile.

  3. Tap the gear icon in the top-right corner of the profile screen to access your settings.

  4. The two settings that you want to look at are the ones under the "Who Can..." heading.

    Tap either Send Me Snaps or View My Story to control who can send you content or view the snaps in your "story", respectively.  For both options, you can choose Everyone (i.e. anyone on Snapchat who knows your user name) or My Friends (i.e. users whom you have added as "friends" on Snapchat). 

    For View My Story, you can also choose Custom.  This is basically the same as My Friends, but on the next screen, you can tap the check box beside one of your friend's names to block them from viewing your story.

That's our advice on how to use Snapchat as safely and privately as possible! Next up, we'll show you how to use Snapchat.


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