what is snapchat and how to use it

Ministry to Parents offers a Technology Blog Series that gives clear and quick tips from video tutorials to texting acronyms. To view the entire series, click HERE. Today, we cover Snapchat, one of the most popular apps among teenagers. Tony Bianco, from Family Technology Plan, takes you through the pros and cons along with a video tutorial to help parents and others understand what is Snapchat and how to use it.

What is Snapchat and How to Use It

Snapchat may be one of the most popular apps on your student’s device or it is probably listed at the top of their app wish list.  Snapchat allows users to share photos and videos with “friends.” However, the distinguishing feature is that the photos and videos have an expiration time of mere seconds. This feature was the selling point that launched Snapchat in 2011. 

There’s no question that Snapchat is extremely popular with students, and it is definitely fun to use. Since its launch, the developers have added hundreds of filters or ‘lenses,’ created a ‘My Story’ feature, and unveiled Snap Maps.  However, the app can lead to inappropriate content and cause problems for monitoring software. I’ll address these negative aspects later in the post.

If you want to learn how to use the Snapchat app or understand what your student may be doing on the app, I encourage you to watch the video tutorial below entitled, “How to Use Snapchat.”  The tutorial provides a video walk-through of the basic features of the app and allows you to step into the user experience.



Let’s start by considering the positive aspects of the app. Snapchat allows students to connect with their peers in a creative way. Similar to TikTok, students can share their lives, faces, and experiences with their peers in a very short amount of time–sometimes as little as one second of content. 

Many students choose to use Snapchat before a text messaging app because they feel it’s faster and easier to express themselves.  With lenses, Bitmoji’s, and special effects, students can send quick messages and look good, funny, or straight silly.

Since these images also disappear, they are able to make quick work of each one and connect with a lot of people in a short amount of time. 

Another reason students use the app is to connect with brands and companies. Many popular brands connect with their user base through Snapchat.  For a student, this connection makes them feel part of the brand or connected to their spokesperson, which is different from seeing the same ad on a computer screen.  Students can respond and feel heard by big business. This is a huge draw for Generation Z. These companies connect and do it daily!


Now let’s examine some of the negative aspects of the app, which may concern parents.

The first problem stems from the fact that the majority of the content ‘disappears.’ There is very little accountability for what is shared. 

If you’ve read or seen the news in the past nine years, you’ve probably heard about under-age inappropriate content disseminated through the app. This can be a rough place for a student.  Although the content ‘disappears,’ users could still ‘screenshot’ their device to capture the content. (Snapchat does alert the user that this has happened to their photo, but cannot do anything other than notifying the user.)

There are also apps designed to save all snaps regardless of the time limit. Clearly, people want to capture this disturbing potential content.  But to prevent this from happening or being a temptation for your student, I encourage parents to approve all friends and followers. This oversight will help you know and trust the content potentially coming in on the app.

Also, another area of concern for parents is the app’s classification. Snapchat is listed as a “photo/video” app in the app store, rather than a social networking app.  If you use monitoring software and you set it up by categories, you’ll need to adjust your time limits in the correct category to limit Snapchat time.


Like most apps, Snapchat has some benefits, but it also has some serious pitfalls. Overall, the best way to mitigate the potential problems is to engage in regular conversations with your student. For example, ask about how they are using the app and any potential struggles it highlights. The more you talk about it with your student, the better their experience will be—and the stronger your relationship will become.

Tony Bianco has been in Student Ministry for over ten years with his wife Diamend with whom they have two amazing kids. He is a former Radio DJ, Technology Reviewer, GameStop Manager, Apple Store Expert, and the author of The Family Technology Plan. You can contact Tony at www.familytechnologyplan.com.

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