Snapchat, for those who are not up to date on apps (admittedly, I just recently learned about Snapchat because of recent media hype), is a free photo & video sharing application that will delete the shared item in 10 seconds or less. Wildly popular among teens, the app ‘allows’ users to send silly, embarrassing, or even sexy images that will theoretically be erased shortly after the receiver views it, aka they will theoretically self-destruct. Launched in September 2011, Snapchat boasts over 60 millions messages a day.
However, a quick review of the headlines shows the potential pitfalls of Snapchat:
Why Snapchat is dangerous (it’s not just because of sexting)
Law enforcement warns Snapchat is a perfect tool for child predators
A warning about Snapchat, Teenagers, and Online Photo Sharing
The app has gotten even more media attention this week since a teen in New Jersey took screenshots of several photos sent via Snapshot, and then posted them on Instagram. The police are now involved in the case, since possession of naked photos of a person under the age of 18 is against the law in NJ.
This particular NJ case, and the attention given to the app, highlights the ever-increasing need to help young people understand appropriate and inappropriate uses of technology, especially when it comes to photos and videos. In recent conversations that I have had about the app, most people have quickly come to the conclusion that a primary purpose of the app is to send sexually explicit messages, when according to their website their actual intention is to provide a platform to share an image that might “be a little grainy, and you may not look your best, but that’s the point. It’s about the moment, a connection between friends, and not just a pretty picture.”
Here are some important messages to emphasize with young people:
-Consider all of the potential risks of sending photos that are sexually explicit
-Think about who will be receiving the message, and what could happen
-Establish personal boundaries based on potential risks involved
-Even ‘private’ photos aren’t always private
-ANYthing sent via Snapchat, or other programs like Facebook Poke, could be seen by anyone, so make sure you’re ok with that
-Know that anyone in possession of a nude photo taken of someone under the age of 18 is against the law
-If you share an image against the wishes of an individual, you could get sued for invasion of privacy, plus it’s not very nice!
It is also important to remember that teens are really into this application, so it may not be productive to simply prohibit its use. Rather, use this as a teachable moment and talk about smart ways to use smartphones.