Teen sexting has made national headlines due to its devastating effects on young people’s reputations. SnapChat allows users to snap a picture of themselves, and send it to another SnapChat user. Once the photo reaches the other user, they can only see it for a brief moment before it is deleted and disappears. This false sense of security makes teens feel like SnapChat is a safer sexting option since the receiver of the photo can’t keep or save it; or can they?
Snapchat is defined as a photo messaging phone application that prides itself on being a time-limited photo sharing application.
Developed and launched in 2011 by two Stanford students at the time, Evan Spiegel and Robert Murphy, the idea behind Snapchat was a simple notion, both of them felt that smiley faces and emoticons are not enough to transmit certain emotions needed to be conveyed at a time of sending an IM or a text message so they wanted to create an application that allows anyone to capture their exact face as they text something and their fear of that photo being up on servers for the whole world to see for the rest of eternity caused them to develop it in a way where it is only shared for a certain time.
The “snaps” can only be visible for 1 to 10 seconds, afterwards they disappear from the recipients phone and permanently deleted from all servers.
As for snapchat and sexting, the major selling point of this app is that the picture will disappear into the stratosphere of the interwebs forever therefore making it seemingly impossible for a person to ruin ones reputation. However, there are a few major flaws in that model. First, most, if not all, smart phones have a screen shot option. Essentially, a person that receives a photo through SnapChat can take a quick screen shot of it and do whatever they want from that point on. SnapChat does not offer any protection against this at this stage.
The reality of the Sexting phenomenon is that it is not only very dangerous for teens and is directly related to the staggering bully statistics, but many teens are doing it. In December of 2009, the Pew Research Center reported that 15% of teens between the ages 12-17 years old surveyed on their cell phone use said that they received a “sext” from someone they know. Moreover, 4% out of that group said that they also participated in the sexting craze by sending sexually explicit photos or video of themselves nude or almost nude to someone else via text message.
Since the time of that study, the further studies have exposed even more shocking statistics. It is clear that sexting is not a fad that will die out anytime soon. In the July 2012 issue of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, it was reported that 28% of the 14 to 19 year olds surveyed said that they “sent a naked picture of themselves through text or e-mail”.
In a disclaimer on Snapchat’s website, the company states that if a certain file is not viewed by the recipient, it remains on snapchat’s servers for 30 days before being deleted for good.
Forbes released a feature claiming that a forensic security firm managed to retrieve tens of photos supposedly deleted from the Snapchat servers, therefore raising concern over the security of things sent over Snapchat. The Electronic Privacy Information Center consequently filed a complaint against Snapchat with the Federal Trade Commission, stating that Snapchat deceived its customers by leading them to believe that pictures are destroyed within seconds of viewing.
This came on the heels of news spreading of applications available on most smart phones allowing a recipient of a “Snap” to actually take a screenshot of anything, therefore keeping the photo for good, that is the issue with snapchat and sexting.
Snapchat released an abuse guide that insists the company is not encouraging Sexting or being “sexting-friendly”.
With that in mind, it has to be said that recent news demonstrate several security breaches hitting Snapchat users. First of all, according to the BBC, hackers have published thousands of “snaps” from snapchat users and most of the people in the pictures were between 13- 17 years old.
Snapchat officially said that the reason behind this particular security breach was in fact that users opted for other “third party apps” connected to their snapchat accounts and hackers made use of that breach. The report mentioned that these unauthorised services that offered the ability to save Snapchat messages permanently. It suspected that at least one such service was keeping a database of all the pictures and videos that had passed through it.
The only confirmed add on service so far to have been the source of the photos and videos leak is Snapsaved, the people behind this application recently admitted that hundreds of thousands of its users have had their pictures stolen.
This goes to show that companies and developers are working and have succeeded in creating applications that save “snaps” for eternity, if that is not a red flag for teens using Snapchat, we don’t know what is.
Many parents and child and adolescent experts are scratching their heads at what actions to take to end the Snapchat Sexting epidemic. Is there a way that parents and experts can encourage teens to stray away from Snapchat Sexting and other apps like it or to use them responsibly? A recent Chicago Tribune article on bullying suggests some keen advice to consider. Firstly, the article says that parents should automatically assume that, much like bullying, teens a quite hesitant to approach a parent about their problems. When it comes to sexting, there is an added layer of guilt and shame associated with their actions. They can feel too embarrassed to ask for their parents help or the help of another trusted adult. This only becomes more true if the photo is spread among peers and leads to bullying.
The best way to help your teen is to be proactive. Make sure to sit down and talk to them in a non confrontational and very constructive way about misusing apps in several ways such as Snapchat Sexting. Let them know that you are not judging or blaming them for their actions so that it becomes easier for them to talk to you if they find themselves wrapped up in sexting. If the teen is not your child and you notice that they are involved in sexting, try to suggest seeking help via an anonymous hotline. That way they are able to discuss their issues with a professional.
Using snapchat for sexting is more common than you think, having the application of snapchat for sexting is a widespread phenomena among teens looking for acceptance from your peers. Sexting with snapchat is more dangerous and less innocent than what teens deem it to be. Sexting snapchats are filling teens’ phones every day and parents aren’t aware of the snapchat sexting trend!
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