Parents, Tech Experts Raise Concerns Over Snapchat

By Troubleshooter Jo Ling Kent
|  Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013  |  Updated 12:47 AM EDT
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Parents are concerned the photo sharing app could lead to sexting, bullying, and cheating in school.

Parents are concerned the photo sharing app could lead to sexting, bullying, and cheating in school.

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It’s the application every tween seems to have on their phone: Snapchat. More than 60 million photos and videos are exchanged each day on this wildly popular platform. 12-year-old Jenna Goldberg of New Haven cannot get enough of it.

  “I think it's one of those really hot things right now,” Goldberg said as she held her iPhone. “It’s a really fast and easy way to send pictures to your friends.”
 
Snapchat has parents across Connecticut talking.
 
“I never knew what it was until all of a sudden one day my daughter Jenna is laughing and…she’s like I’m ‘Snapchatting’ Ben,” Hilary Goldberg said. “And I’m going, ‘What’s that?”
 
The app has parents and educators concerned about sexting, bullying and cheating in school. Jenna’s mother Hilary does not believe her daughter is using it inappropriately at her age but has reservations about how teens at large use it.
 
“In general, I'm worried. Whether it’s her friends or camp friends or anyone else she snapchats with, it's pretty easy for them to drag someone else in with them"
 
Snapchat is a simple application that allows users to take and share a photo with a friend and then it will self-destruct in 10 seconds or less. If the receiver of the photo saves it with a screen shot, the sender is supposed to be notified with an alert. However, this is not all that can happen.
 
Lon Seidman, better known as CT Tech Junkie, cautions users that Snapchat photos and videos can be easily saved forever without the sender knowing it.
 
 
“Snapchat in a way gives people what I think is actually a false sense of security that that image will be viewed once and disappear forever,” Seidman, of Ivorytown, explained to NBC Connecticut.
 
“The app does detect that activity but there is a way to circumvent that detection, which doesn't require any programming," Seidman said.
 
Seidman said a undetectable screen grab can be easily taken by hitting the ‘home’ button of an iPhone twice.
 
“What it does is quit the application but it took the screen shot. It showed up in my photo album, but if we go back to the Snapchat [the sender] took on [their phone], it doesn't have a screen shot icon (notification) on it," he said.
 
Experts add that the double home-key tactic is one of many ways Snapchat photos and videos can be saved in perpetuity without the sender’s knowledge.
 
“That’s the big thing people need to be aware of,” Seidman cautions.
 
Seidman, who also serves on the Essex Board of Education, says classrooms are feeling the effects of this popular app too. 
 
“A lot of students are conducting behavior like cheating and other things, thinking that no one is ever going to know it was me that sent that image,” Seidman said. “And guess what? It's not hard for a student who is getting these images to replicate them..."
 
That sense of impermanence is attractive to young Jenna Goldberg.
 
“Instagram is very popular but you can't really take away your pictures,” Goldberg said. She puts Facebook in the same category as Instagram – where photos live “forever.” She likes how Snapchat images seem to evaporate, but she is also careful with how she uses it.
 
“Just because it's not there anymore doesn't mean it disappeared,” Goldberg said with a skeptical grin.
 
Although Snapchat advertises itself as at the disappearing photo app, the company does not guarantee anything. 
 
“On Snapchat, any image you take can be saved forever, whether it’s somebody can take a picture with another camera or someone taking a screenshot. So it's not a great place to send photos you want to be secure,” 22-year-old Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel told NBC’s Today Show.
 
“It's actually really easy to capture and save Snapchat content…and it's really important for our users and the media to understand that, you know," Spiegel added. "Because it's easy to capture and save this content, it's not a great way to share explicit or inappropriate content."
 
Jenna and her mom Hilary say they are not worried about sexting but a quick search on Twitter shows that Snapchat is indeed a popular vehicle to show some skin. Jenna protects herself by only Snapchatting with people she knows.
 
“Like on Facebook and different kinds of places, I always make sure settings are so that nobody knows my real name and private things,” Goldberg said.

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