A vulnerability on the extremely popular messaging app Snapchat has been uncovered which allows children of primary school age and older to be contacted directly by strangers at the touch of the button.
The vulnerability allows any Snapchat user (a stranger to your child) to search for schools using the public groups function. That then shows any Snapchat message posted from at or near a school, including images and videos of pupils. Students sometimes post their username within those messages, allowing strangers to “add” them and begin a conversation.
Try it for yourself. I searched for a nearby middle school: Ladera Ranch Middle School. Snapchat also suggested other schools nearby as well.
Clicking on any of the search returns will show a stream of posts (Snaps) taken in and around the school. As a parent, you might be disappointed on several levels based on what you find. One, strangers can look at the photos and videos children are taking of themselves and their friends; and two, there are a lot of kids using their phones inappropriately during the school day.
When Snapchat was made aware of this issue, they replied, “The safety of our community is our top priority, and one we take very seriously.
“We have developed an online safety center, which provides comprehensive safety tips, research, and helpful resources and we have a dedicated trust and safety team working round the clock to enforce our policies." They added: “We encourage parents, educators, and guardians to talk to young people about how to use Snapchat safely and enjoyably.”
Cyber Safety Cop's Opinion:
Snapchat is not safe for minors. This new vulnerability is one in a growing list of safety issues for children on this social media app.
Parents are allowing their children to use this app because they don't know it is unsafe and leads to a lot of inappropriate behavior. Snapchat's core feature is messages (text, images, or video) that disappear after the recipient reads it. This app gives the false sense that it is safe and private and has lead to a lot of students using this app to sending nude images of themselves or threatening messages.
My strong advice is to remove this app from your child's device.