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What the SNAP is Snapchat?

What the SNAP is Snapchat?

What is Snapchat?  Should my children or I be using it?  And what should I be aware of?

One of the hottest social media apps with teens and pre-teens these days is Snapchat.  This app, available for both ANDROID and Apple iOS devices, allows for users to share photos and videos of themselves showing off in ways they might normally not allow seen on more publicly faced social media outlets such as Facebook and Instagram.  Snapchat creates an environment where sharing a picture of yourself doing something silly, or goofy, or even lewd, can easily go away in a matter of seconds.  1 to 10 seconds to be exact, as that’s the default view range for how long Snapchat photos or videos can be viewed until they are removed from the device and can no longer be seen.  At least that’s the idea.  Unfortunately it has become overwhelmingly clear to many teens and adults that Snapchat comes with a unique set of dangers that we’re still trying to navigate.

The premise of Snapchat is that you take a photo, add a caption or drawing, and send it to as many of your followers as you want.  Once someone receives a snapchat, the photo can only be viewed for a few seconds and then it’s gone…or is it?  The problem that much adolescence have run into with this app is understanding that once something is out of your possession it’s no longer in your control. Photos sent via Snapchat follow the same rule as everything else sent digitally; caution is in the hands of the sender, because anything sent can be copied.  Photos sent via Snapchat could be screen captioned long before the time runs out and saved to anyone’s phone or computer.  Then it becomes property of the recipient and can be used in ways never intended by the sender.

There have been reports over the life of Snapchat of bullying, taunting, and extortion because of things sent in the “safe zone” of Snapchat that were screen captured napchatand turned against the senders.  A growing number of teens are using Snap chat to dabble in inappropriate messages, sending photos they would be mortified if anyone else saw, and saying things they wouldn’t normally feel comfortable with anyone else seeing.  Not only is this dangerous to the integrity of someone’s social stature, but also questions the legality of the content sent, received, and saved on phones at both ends of the snapchats.  Anyone using this app must keep in mind, nothing is truly secure and the repercussions of a saved Snapchat are insurmountable.

To its defense the creators of Snapchat are well aware that there is a misconception about the privacy and security with their app.  Snapchat does have an added feature that allows the sender to be notified if their picture has been screen captioned.  While this is a step in giving awareness to both sides of the “snap”, it still offers no way to prevent it from happening.  There are other apps and websites that offer ways around this feature and adolescence and teens should be aware of the real life risks with over sharing on this social app.

There are benefits to this app that we hate to gloss over.  It is, after all, intended to put the fun back into communication that has seemingly been taken away by having to maintain such an idealized online face.  It’s a fantastic app for escaping the pressure of perfection that causes so many problems on Facebook and Twitter.  With its perceived lack of permanence, users may let down their guard and send something that should never be seen past the 10 seconds it was intended.  Does that mean you should keep yourself or others from using Snapchat?  Not at all.  Like anything else in the digital age we currently live in, use this app for what it was meant to do, and that’s have fun, silly conversations with your close friends.  Does the benefit of temporary conversation outweigh the risk of permanent shame?  It’s completely up to the person using the app and how they want to handle themselves.  Negatives can be found in everything we use, and someone will always find a way to turn the best intentions into the worst.  Snapchat is evolving to be a great platform for sharing a different side of yourself and it’s ultimately the responsibility of users and their parents to makes sure teens and pre-teens are using apps like these responsibly.


Editors note: We woke up this morning to news that Snapchat has now added a new feature: chat and video! The chat feature, just like the photos, isn’t saved in the app (or anywhere) by Snapchat.  However, screen captions of the conversations can be made with a simple tap of the screen.  The video talk feature is more like a short video chat, it immediately looks like a replacement to Facetime except you will have to hold down the screen while on video. If you haven’t seen the video roll out from Snapchat you can watch it here.

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