In the world of the ever evolving social media experience new apps come out daily that propel us into the future of digital communication. With the ever-evolving communication platform there are also going to be ever evolving dangers that present themselves. Sexting has become the leading issue with a teenage world that lives mobile. Snapchat is a mobile app that makes the world of sexting much more accessible.
What is it?
Snapchat is a social messaging application for iOS (iTouch, iPhone, iPad) and Android devices. The app allows for anyone signed up with a free Snapchat account to send pictures or videos, called a “snaps,” from one device to another. When someone receives a snap it is displayed from between one to ten seconds, depending on the sender’s preference, before it is permanently deleted. Text and photo filters can also be added to snaps. The app has become wildly popular for its creative design and new take on mobile communication. In a youth culture that would rather “send” than “say,” Snapchat offers a new spin on traditional text messaging. While I enjoy the world of social media and like to try out new apps and networks, you will not find me on Snapchat. The app has several features that make it a dangerous one for anyone but specifically teenagers.
Lack of accountability
The greatest danger with Snapchat is a lack of accountability. The premise of the app is a sense of privacy (more on that later). Users can send whatever they want to whomever they are friends with without the risk of anyone else seeing it or finding out. The leading issue with teenagers and social media right now is sexting and Snapchat is a vehicle that makes it easier for students to send sexts since it leaves no record on the receiver’s phone of the image or video. There is also no way to filter what someone else sends to you in a snap. While users can be blocked often blocking someone is the result of having received an inappropriate snap instead of preventing explicit content in the first place.
Snapchat very clearly states in their user agreement that they cannot guarantee that images wont still be available in some form after the time has elapsed…that means that information is never lost. Within a world that runs on recording data onto servers it is safe to assume that there is no such thing as complete digital privacy. Any user who receive a snap can save it; anytime a snap is received a screenshot can be take. The app has a “security” measure that does notify the sender if the receive took a screenshot, but a simple Google search will yield instructions to bypass the screen shot notification. This means that anything sent on Snapchat, silly, serious, or explicit can be saved. Though the app portrays a false sense of security the company founder, Even Spiegel, admits that the apps is not intended for privacy.
Recently in Iowa Snapchat made the news because of it’s use in school bullying. A girl who was changing in the locker room had her picture taken and snapped to a male student. While this could have happened with any smart phone with a text plan, the false sense of privacy that Snapchat offers makes it attractive to bullies because it is much harder to prove their guilt without hard evidence. With social media already fueling the fire of bullying an app like this could cause further damage to teenagers.
I would highly recommend that parents not allow students to have Snapchat on their phones. But be prepared, with the rising popularity of the app you may run into some resistance when you tell your student, “No.” I recommend that if that occurs you take the opportunity to have a conversation with your teenager about the importance of accountability.