Do you know what Snapchat is? You should if you have a child who knows how to use a smartphone. Snapchat is a free app that allows users to send pictures to other mobile devices that will “disappear” within ten seconds after being viewed by the recipient. According to the Snapchat website, the app allows friends to quickly connect by sharing fleeting moments. It is one of the most popular apps for people between the ages of 13-24. Over 50 million “snaps” are sent per day – with a considerable amount of activity occurring during school hours.
Snapchat can be a fun and harmless way for friends to share pictures. So what’s the issue?
Even though a sent image is supposed to automatically delete after ten seconds, it is very easy for the recipient to take a screenshot of the image and to save it indefinitely. Recipients can also take a photo of the image with another mobile device, and tech savvy kids can hack the app to disable the deleting feature altogether. This is a particularly concerning scenario for youngsters who send sexually compromising images of themselves (i.e., sexts) to other students thinking that the images will self-delete, only to find out later that these very private moments are now in someone else’s control permanently. Parents should also be aware that some kids are using Snapchat to bully and harass their peers, and that quite a few students may be using the app to cheat on exams. Snapchat is not a bad app per se, but like with any technology, kids need to be aware of the risks associated with using it. If you haven’t already, talk to your kids about Snapchat and make sure they understand that those “fleeting” moments they are sharing with friends may not be so fleeting after all.