Parents of tweens and teens, are you spending your time worrying about what your kids post on social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter? Well, there's a new app in town that's giving parents a whole new batch of things to fret over. The app is called Snapchat, and it promises users the chance to send messages that "disappear in seconds." But do these fleeting message pressure teens to send "chats" that they wouldn't send otherwise? And does anything ever truly disappear once it's out there?
If you haven't already heard about Snapchat and you are the parent of a teen or tween, you need to sit down and get yourself acquainted. The app hit the market a little over a year ago, but it has exploded in popularity since last fall when it released updated platforms for both iPhones and Androids. The basic idea behind Snapchat is that the app allows users to send texts, pictures and videos that will disappear in 10 seconds after they are opened by the recipient.
From the Snapchat website:
"The allure of fleeting messages reminds us about the beauty of friendship - we don't need a reason to stay in touch. Give it a try, share a moment, and enjoy the lightness of being!"
To be fair, many of Snapchat's users do just that, sharing pictures and texts that capture a moment in time and keep users connected to friends and family. As Christine Erickson argues in her Mashable post, Don't Blame Snapchat For Your Teen's Naked Pics, it's not the app that's the problem. The app just gives users the platform. The problem is the unfortunate gullibility of some kids who think that when something says it will disappear in 10 seconds, it will truly disappear. This prompts some kids to send things — such as sexually explicit messages or images — that they would not otherwise have sent.
But you and I both know that nothing disappears once it's out there. For starters, the recipient can capture the image or text by taking a screenshot of their phone. Now the message is captured and can easily be saved, shared via mass text, or uploaded to other social media sites such as Facebook or Instagram. Savvy users have even figured out how to download images and videos before the 10 second viewing period is over.
Sure, the sender will receive a notification if the recipient took a screenshot or downloaded their message, but what good does that do once the message has already been sent? For some unsuspecting kids, that rash decision to send an explicit message may haunt them for a long time.
The bottom line, parents, is that you need to know if your kids are using Snapchat. And if they are, you need to have a long talk with them about the potential dangers and what is and is not appropriate for cyberspace. If they want to send a friend a Snapchat of their gross cafeteria lunch — sure, that's fine. But Snapchatting anything sexual — texts, images or videos — should be strictly off-limits. For so many reasons. It's a painful conversation, but one that you need to have with your child. Today.
Want more info? Here's more about the Snapchat app from ABC news: