Several schools in Flintshire have written to parents following a North Wales Police warning that some youngsters in the area using Snapchat have been exploited and coerced into sharing inappropriate images of themselves.
Police are asking parents to talk to their children about the importance of online safety and check their social media friends lists following a number of reported incidents recently.
Officers from South Flintshire police team say they are dealing with an ever-growing number of online incidents “whereby young people are placing themselves at risk through adding unknown accounts on the social media platform Snapchat.”
Police have particular concerns over the accounts with usernames ‘YOUSEF’ or ‘YOUSEFFOUNI’ or similar, though parents are advised to talk with their children about any accounts they have added from people who they don’t know in the ‘real world.’
A spokesperson from South Flintshire policing team said;
“In many cases, inappropriate images and conversations have been elicited by this account, which have in turn been used against those same young people on a Snapchat ‘Story’ to humiliate them further or to elicit further images.
The very nature of this popular app means that unscrupulous people are able to exploit young people.
Some have had friendship group messages infiltrated by unknown persons and even had their accounts ‘taken over’ by this user. A number of images have subsequently gone viral, resulting in further unwanted attention and unkind comments.
Although Snapchat are investigating and removing certain accounts, we are informed that some accounts are difficult to trace and more continue to pop up in their place.”
Parents are kindly requested as always to be vigilant in respect of their children’s online activities in relation to the increasing risks of social media and to speak to them about any concerns that they have. The minimum age requirement for social media such as Snapchat is 13 years.”
Snapchat is a picture sharing app that is hugely popular with young people. As of May 2017, the app was attracting 166m users a day.
It is often referred to as ‘the sexting app’ – even though there’s no research showing that to be true, and plenty of anecdotal evidence suggesting that isn’t the reason most teens use it.
The app focuses on capturing ‘moments’ quickly with users taking images and videos and sending them instantly.
The unique feature of Snapchat is that images disappear within seconds. Snapchat users can specify how many seconds they would like their images to be seen by the recipient(s). This can range from 1 to 10 seconds.
Snapchat added a location-sharing feature called Snap Map in June 2017.
This feature has prompted some concern from parents and professionals working with children over privacy, and who can find out the exact location of their kids as you don’t need to be friends with a user for them to see where you are.
To combat this, users can specify who they share their whereabouts with – all their friends or just a select few. They can even set it to ‘ghost mode’, where they can see where others are without sharing their own location.
Thinkuknow – the education programme of The National Crime Agency’s child protection command CEOP – has created a guide for parents and carers to help them understand the functions and features of Snapchat and ways to help young people stay safe while using it.
Everything you need to know about the hugely popular picture sharing app.
Does the fact that photos disappear from Snapchat make it completely safe to use? If things do go wrong, what can you do?
How to be a bit more careful, and a bit better informed, when using Snapchat.
What do you need to know about Snapchat?
Further advice and support
Childline – Information and free, confidential phone counselling for under 19s about sex and relationships.
NSPCC – Help and advice for adults and children who are concerned about the wellbeing of a child they know.
Barnardo’s – Support for children and families who have been affected by CSE.
Internet Watch Foundation – UK internet hotline for anyone to report online child sexual abuse imagery and non-photographic child sexual abuse images anonymously.