Beware Vanishing Message Apps

Instant messaging apps that see communications disappear may seem preferable to posts with staying power, but Northern Beaches Cyber Safety Lady Leonie Smith explains why they all need monitoring. 

Snapchat messenger boasts 158 million daily users and is one of the most popular apps in the world. Its ‘Disappearing’ message feature has been a key part of its early success with users feeling safer using the app than say Facebook, where posts have a longer life and can be seen by people they did not intend.

The popularity of Snapchat has spawned a lot of copy cat apps and encouraged existing messaging apps to introduce their own ‘disappearing’ messages and cute filters.  
‘Disappearing’ messages are available in Apple Messenger through their add on apps, Instagram - Disappearing live video and messages, Facebook Messenger, and many other messaging apps.

It’s important parents educate children and teens about how these apps must be used and warn them about only sharing respectable content. Nothing ever disappears from message apps; all content can be captured and passed on via screen capture if nothing else.

Instagram and Snapchat? – the most popular apps

  • Make sure the privacy settings are set so that only their followers can see their snaps and content. It helps protect them from unwelcome followers. 
  • Rated 13+ both apps have 17+ content easily accessible and unblockable. Any child can easily use the discovery features available in either app and come across very adult content. 
  • All messages can be copied and then shared on - never, never rely on the message simply disappearing. 
  • Teens that use these apps have to understand the possible repercussions of sharing sensitive or explicit content.
  • Make sure your teen knows that they can and SHOULD come to you if they are bullied or approached by a stranger on any app. 
  • If your child feels they have made a mistake online, they need to know they can come and tell you about it without the fear of any severe repercussions. 

Apple Messenger
This now has all sorts of third party apps within it, including disappearing message ‘add ons’ but most kids will use the Apple message app just as a
straight up message app. 

Safer Messaging Apps
Skype is still one of the safest message apps for families to use. IF you ensure the strictest privacy settings. Parents of younger children might like to share an account for supervision, and Skype has less ‘add ons’ than most other message apps. 

Leonie Smith
The Cyber Safety Lady