When I watch my kids online, I often wish the internet was a bit more forgiving. I am not talking about the freedom to do whatever they want without consequences. I am talking about sharing a silly moment without it stalking them for they rest of their lives. The Snapchat app appears to promise kids this freedom by allowing them to send a disappearing photo.
Snapchat lets kids take and send photos to their friends that cannot be saved. It does this by including a self-destruct button. Kids decide how long their friend can view the photo, with a maximum viewing time of 10 seconds. When time is up, the photo disappears. Snapchat photos cannot be saved by the recipient.
Snapchat is intended for kids over 13. It is one of the top 5 apps for teens. Over 60 million photos or messages are sent each day on Snapchat. The latest version will let teens send videos that self-destruct within 10 seconds.
When Snapchat first launched, many people wrote about the potential for teens to use it for sexting. A self-destructing photo seemed the perfect way for teens to send naughty pictures without worrying about the photo ending up splashed all over the internet. Some teens probably have used Snapchat for this purpose and parents should definitely talk to their teen about the dangers of sexting.
An online search for #Snapchat reveals a lot of teens are using it to take funny pictures of themselves. They are making an ugly face or drawing a mustache. These pictures share a silly moment then disappear. They can have fun without having their crazy duck face follow them into adulthood. Unfortunately, these faces may not always disappear.
Although friends cannot save the photo, they can take a screenshot. Friends do take screenshots and post them on Instagram or Twitter. Snapchat does attempt to make taking a screenshot harder by only allowing the photo to remain visible when a finger is touching the screen. Although it may make it more difficult, it is not impossible. Snapchat notifies the sender when a friend takes a screenshot, but at that point they photo is out there.
Teens using this app should know it is up to their friend whether a message or picture is a fleeting moment or a recorded image. Friends should respect their friend’s intent and not post these photos. To be safe, teens should not assume their friend will keep it private.
Before sending that silly Snapchat photo, teens should ask themselves:
- How much do I really trust this friend?
- How much do I really care if this is shared?
With a low-level of trust and they care deeply, they should not send it. Even with a high level of trust, teens should never send photos containing partial or full nudity. Once something is out there, it can go anywhere. In the end, the only way these photos disappear is if there is a good friend at the other end.