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Snapchat’s explicit “Discover” feature: What every parent should know

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My teenage son recently showed me the Discover feature on Snapchat. If you are unaware, the Discover feature grabs content from a variety of sources — Cosmopolitan, Buzzfeed, CNN among many others and makes it accessible to anyone, including our kids.

More often than not, the stories include explicit sex and sexist messaging. Chase and I found the stories from Cosmopolitan especially offensive. But what makes me so mad is that there is no way to remove or block the Discover Story feature on the app.

Snapchat is supposed to be for 13 years old and over. The Apple store actually says 12 years old. But whatever the supposed age, the fact is Cosmopolitan and other content creators in Discover have tons of explicit material—much of it offensive for anyone to read, let alone kids.

So what to do? Well, last summer a 14-year-old boy and his mother filed a lawsuit against Snapchat because of the Discover feature. The suit accuses Snapchat of violating the Communications Decency Act of 1996, which is suppose to help regulate explicit content on the Web. Not much seems to be happening with the lawsuit.

In addition to civil penalties, the lawsuit asks Snapchat to put in-app warnings about possible sexually explicit content. No word yet if any action has been taken.

Talk with your kids and teens about this—If they don’t have Snapchat, then I have added questions to give other options:

  • Is there anyone you really love getting a Snapchat from or if not on Snapchat, email or call? (I always recommend starting with a positive question so to create a warm, supportive environment, rather than defensive).
  • What things have you seen on Snapchat (or other screens) that are more racy?
  • Have your kids seen Cosmopolitan on their phone and if so, what do they think of it? (Don’t be worried that talking about it will make them want to go and look more—If kids and teens are online we have to have conversations about media and images because they see a lot of things.)
  • Should companies be held responsible, so they don’t expose kids to sexually explicit materials?

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-Delaney Ruston, MC, Screenagers’ Filmaker

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