Snapped: An Innocent App Goes Wild

It’s a parent’s worst nightmare. Dawn, mother of three, thought she had her bases covered with the Internet safety of her kids. But when a new app on her daughter’s phone led to private photos getting into the wrong hands, she knew this problem was so much bigger.

Parents, if you saw an app called Snapchat on your child’s mobile device, would you know what it does? Would you question it? If the answer to either question is no, stop right now. This article is meant for you. Here’s why…

Meet Snapchat

Snapchat was born in the spring of 2011, the creation of two undergraduates at Stanford University. However, it’s really made it’s momentum in the last year, debuting as a new way to share moments with friends. Snapchat is a free mobile app that enables users to send quick images, videos, and accompanying text that will disappear and be deleted after a few seconds.

Bloomberg Businessweek reports that in the US, Snapchat was the second most popular free photo and video app for the iPhone in early February 2013, just behind YouTube and just ahead of Instagram.

The philosophy behind this app is to promote innocent, fun, and spontaneous communication with a certain lightness. Just snap a goofy picture or silly joke, send it, and have a quick laugh“ and the snap disappears shortly thereafter. The sender of the snap can actually set the duration anything from 1 to 10 seconds after which the image will disappear. This disappearing act seems to be part of Snapchat’s lure.

It became clear how awful social media is, Evan Spiegel, the founder of Snapchat, told The New York Times. œThere is real value in sharing moments that don’™t live forever.”

Many enjoy Snapchat because they feel it’™s more personal than just a plain text, allowing a different level of connectedness with the sender. One user stated that every time she receives a Snapchat, it feels like unwrapping a present“ you never know what you are going to get.

However, it did not take long for many to realize that Snapchat might work for other communications namely sexting (sending a nude or semi-nude image of yourself or someone else). In an age where individuals are experiencing the consequences of posting or sending inappropriate content, Snapchat seemingly gives a reprieve from cautious behavior. Just snap and send a quick sext because, after all, it’™s going to be quickly deleted anyways, right? Not so fast.

Revenge, Bullying, and Cheaters

While it’s true that Snapchat messages disappear and are deleted quickly, both on the recipient’™s end and on Snapchat’s servers, there’™s a caveat. If the recipient is fast enough, they can take a screenshot of the sent image with their phone, preserving it.

Though the sender is notified by Snapchat if a screenshot has been taken, the screenshot functionality can leave the sender vulnerable to future repercussions, with unsavory content resurfacing.

Ideally, the app is used between those whom are trusted friends, family, or acquaintances. But lack of good judgement in relationship choices (whether new or old) can cause ties to be soured or severed, and Snapchat provides a new medium for œgetting back” at someone. Hugely concerning for parents is the fact that inappropriate images can end up in the hands of sex offenders and pedophiles who set up profiles on Twitter to solicit nude or semi-nude pictures.

Additionally, Snapchat is playing a role in cyberbullying incidents that have cropped up in the headlines recently. In Iowa, a student used the app to take a picture of an unsuspecting female student in the women’s locker room and sent it to another male student without the victim’™s consent.

A growing number of schools are also concerned with students who are using Snapchat to cheat on tests. Take a quick snap of the answer, send it along, and there’™s no proof because the image disappears.

No End in Sight

As long as new apps keep emerging, a parent’s need to keep up can be a daunting task. Snapchat is a good example as many parents are quickly learning. It takes vigilance and not accepting things at face value. At face value, an app like Snapchat may seem innocent enough, but it’s important to take the time to research apps like this for potential pitfalls down the road.

In many instances, the things that are intended for good can be used inappropriately. It’s important to look at both sides and weigh the consequences. It’s also important to bring your child into the research and decision-making process. By doing this, families can explore the pros and cons of particular apps together, helping set the stage for the child to make healthy decisions about their media usage in the future.

Train Your Child to Always Remember…

  • Nothing disappears from the Internet. Take an extra moment before putting your information out there, even if it seems innocent. It’s not going to disappear.
  • People are not always who they say they are. The recent scandal involving Manti Te’o is a great example. People will try to target you for the wrong reasons and it’s important to think twice about the new online friend.
  • Their future depends on it. Your child’s online reputation can affect future employers’ hiring decisions. It is common practice for employers to check out candidates online. Having a stellar resume is not enough anymore.
Picture credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/pagedooley

Pure Minds Online | Issue 30 | March 2013 | More in this issue: Bringing Rape Culture to Light | Slut Shaming: Teens’ Sex Lives on Display | The Bible and the Brain | 10 Steps to Finding a Great Accountability Partner