Parents, there is a new app we would like to warn you about. Snapchat.
“Snapchat” has been making waves among smart phones users and parents, and not for entirely good reasons. The app allows a user to take a picture, add a caption or a drawing, and send to a friend. Users can control how long the picture can be seen, ranging from 1-10 seconds. Once the time has expired, the picture disappears and cannot be viewed again. Seems pretty harmless, right? Not entirely. While the app can be used to share harmless pictures between friends, others are using the app to share inappropriate pictures or videos of themselves.
Snapchat can give users, especially teens, a false sense of security. The app seems like a risk free way to “sext,” almost encouraging users to share inappropriate pictures of themselves. Pictures may disappear from the app once they are viewed, however, the recipient may still take a screen shot, allowing them to save the picture. Snapchat alerts you when a screen shot has been taken, but the damage has already been done– the private picture is no longer private and the user can’t do anything about it.
There are also concerns about the security of the app itself. What happens if there is a malfunction? Some users have reported bugs that have allowed pictures to appear twice, giving the recipient another opportunity to screen shot the picture. There is also the security of the app to consider, what happens if Snapchat is hacked? Snapchat’s website even acknowledges the risks, “There are a number of risks in transmitting any kind of data over the public Internet and under no circumstances should you use the Snapchat service to transmit confidential or privileged information of any sort.” It’s been said again and again, content posted to the internet is permanent, and a tiny mistake can come back to haunt you.
Talk with your kids about the dangers of sexting. Phones, cameras and computers can be hacked or stolen. There is truly no way to guarantee inappropriate pictures will be permanently deleted without negative consequences. Apps like Snapchat aren’t fool-proof and teens shouldn’t be encouraged to sext by a smart phone app. Compromising yourself by sending inappropriate pictures can have lasting consequences. Snapchat can still be a fun way to send pictures, but urge your teens to keep them appropriate. Private photos can still end up public and reputations can be permanently ruined.
Social Media Safety Advocate