Image Source: Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

An (Idiot-Proof) Guide to Snapchat for Parents

When it comes to social media, I am usually the last one to jump on the bandwagon when something new drops. I was hesitant about Facebook because I was on MySpace. I didn’t really get into Twitter until maybe a few years ago. And don’t even get me started on how long it took me to get pinning.

So yes, when I first heard about Snapchat, I was reluctant. I considered it to be an app for “the kids.”

I finally caved to the peer pressure recently and downloaded it while at a blog conference, because honestly, all of fellow my blogger friends were on it and I had a slight case of FOMO. Of course, Snapchat and I did not instantly bond. Full disclosure, I needed my friend (a millennial mom) to explain it to me. I didn’t even use it all that much those first few days. And even after it was explained to me in-depth, I still couldn’t really figure it out.

For starters, I hadn’t a clue as to who I should follow. So, like most other newbies, I followed people whose numbers were listed in my phone; though even then, I just didn’t find it much fun.

Then I got a private snapchat message one day from a friend I hadn’t heard from in years, (who I followed simply because her number was listed in my phonebook). I was finally able to communicate with my long lost friend! Snapchat had finally become worth it!

Then I opened her message. It was a penis.

I was at work when I opened it, and nearly fell off my chair. Was THIS what Snapchat was about after all? I wondered. Unexpected, unwanted penis pics? (Don’t get scared, it’s totally not. Well, unless you’re into that sort of thing. In which case, no judgments here.)

My friend must have changed her number. I deleted the app and my friends contact information all in one fell swoop.

A few months later, I decided to give Snapchat another chance. Once again, I had a friend give me a crash course. Yes — another one. Because Snapchat can seem totally and utterly confusing if you’re not used to its ways. Especially if you’re a Gen Xer like me.

This time, I was hooked (once I got the hang of it), and since then, it’s become my go-to app.

And I’m definitely not alone — a few months back, Wired referred to Snapchat as “being on the verge of the ‘mom moment,'” and I have to say, it’s true. More and more of my Gen X mom friends are jumping on Snapchat bandwagon, too. Usually, their very first Snap is something about how they’re trying to figure it all out (with painfully awkward hilarity).

So if you too would like to join me and my band of Gen Xers taking the plunge (but have no clue where to start), here are a few tips and tricks to get you going:

The filters:

This is probably my favorite thing about Snapchat, and there are a few kinds of really fun filters to play with.

To use the face filters, first put your camera on “selfie mode” and then hold your finger on the screen over your face. (Pro tip: You’ll need to be in a well-lit area for this to work best, so make sure you are.) You should see face-mapping lines show up, and then the filters will pop up blow and you can scroll through them. Some of the options range from being a goddess, a unicorn or a trucker (and more). Not having a good hair day or haven’t slept in weeks? Don’t worry, Snapchat has you covered — literally.

For general photo filters and the time/speed/temperature overlays, take a photo (or video) and then swipe horizontally across the screen and they’ll show up on your photo. Can’t decide between your photo filters? No problem! After you decide on your first filter, hold a finger on the screen while swiping with the other to add another filter and … voila:

Image Source: Lisa Quinones-Fontanez
Image Source: Lisa Quinones-Fontanez

Drawing, text, and emojis:

Once you’ve taken a photo or recorded a video, you can draw on it, add emojis, or add text. These are the three icons in the top right-hand corner of the screen. The text automatically defaults to white but you can change the color by tapping on the pencil icon. Tapping on the T icon, will enlarge your text.

The trophies:

Another fun feature about Snapchat is the trophies. Because who doesn’t want validation in the form of a trophy? The more you use the app, the more you earn — by interacting with others, snapping in different locales, and more. To access your trophies, tap on the Snapchat icon, once on your Snapchat screen, click on the trophy icon. Once you unlock one trophy, you’ll want them all!


See that little clock in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen? It lets you adjust how long people can see a snap. It can stay on the screen for up to 10 seconds. (I usually keep it between 4 and 6 seconds myself, but that’s up to you.)


Because all of your photos and videos disappear after 24 hours, there are two ways to go about saving them so they aren’t lost forever. Once you’ve taken a photo (but before you’ve sent to it your story or a friend), there’s a little downward pointing arrow beside the timer that saves the photo to your album on your phone. You can save your entire “story” by clicking on the three dots beside it, and then the arrow download button.

Your “story”:

Since you’re probably now wondering WTH a story even is, I’ve got you there, too: It’s a chronological collection of every photo and video that you’ve taken within the past 24 hours. (You have to manually save these snaps to your story, though, and alternatively, you can send photos and videos directly to people in your friends list, if you wanted). But remember: After 24 hours, those photos and videos disappear.

Just have fun:

There are days when it feels like social media is cluttered with depressing news and political agendas. Sometimes I just want to keep my social media light, you know. That’s why I go on Snapchat. It’s fun seeing what my friends are up to without all the clutter. And I love being able to communicate with my friends with a quick pic or video message. It’s a great way to share moments — one to one, one to few, or one to all.

Just be forewarned, though — no matter how hard you try to be cool about it, you will most likely be super uncool (and painfully awkward) the first time you give Snapchat a whirl. And it’s OK — we’ve all been there. As these two parents can attest:

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