Breaktime Buzz: Snapchat

Breaktime Buzz: Snapchat

Our series for staff in schools and colleges exploring what’s trending in the world of apps and social media, helping you find out what’s popular in the classrooms and corridors around you.

What is it?

Snapchat is a photo and video sharing app (yes, another one!) with over 100 million monthly users around the world. ‘Snapchatters’ take photos or videos and then either send them directly to specific friends, who have a short amount of time to view them before they disappear, or add them to a feed (their ‘Story’) where they remain visible for 24 hours.

Snapchat’s key differentiator is the temporary nature of the content that is posted. Its developers say it is ‘meant to make conversation more spontaneous, visual and fun!’, unlike Facebook, Twitter or Instagram where posts have a much wider public audience, and are potentially more permanent.

How does it work?

Users take photos or video with their devices, and then choose to add notes or drawings on top before sending them out. They choose which contacts from their list of Snapchat friends to send to, and how long it will be visible for – between one and 10 seconds. Alternatively, they can choose to add to their ‘Story’, which works more like a Facebook feed but is only available for 24 hours.

When users receive a photo or video they view it by holding their finger on the touchscreen of their device, until the time is up. The media then ‘self-destructs’, disappearing from view. Snapchat’s developers have recognised that recipients might try and save a photo by taking a screenshot, so the app will notify the sender if anyone screenshots their photo.

What do people use it for?

Most people will use Snapchat in a more frivolous way than other social media; to share an everyday moment or a goofy faced selfie with their friends for example. Generally things that they consider too throwaway for Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

What could it mean for your school or college?

Like most social media, the minimum age for Snapchat users is 13, in compliance with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act, so look out for younger pupils using it.

There is definitely potential for using Snapchat for cyber-bullying, especially as the content is transient, therefore not leaving an evidence trail; more like a passing comment.

The temporary nature of the content might also encourage students to lower their inhibitions and send photos of an inappropriate nature.

School staff who are wary of having students potentially find their Facebook or Twitter profiles might find Snapchat a breath of fresh air, allowing them to interact with their own friends in a more private online space and reducing the chance of future repercussions. However, it is worth noting that although the app will delete content by default, very rarely is anything online gone for good – with the right skills and inclination there is potential for content to be retrieved.

Try it for yourself

Download Snapchat via the App Store for iOS, or Google Play for Android, or find out more via

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