Encouraging Minors to Sext: Is the Snapchat Photo App Guilty?

Teen Sexting and the Snapchat Photo App

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Photos are hot right now. Apps like Instagram are some of the most popular around. Camera phones are getting better than ever and celebrities are putting the paparazzi out of business by posting their own candid shots.

But some are pointing to the dark side of the new photo trend. And its name is Snapchat. Designed to take photo sharing to the next level, Snapchat is being used by under-aged teenagers to bare it all without suffering the consequences. And lots of people are concerned.

If you’re not a teenager with a penchant for exhibitionism, you may not have heard of the Snapchat photo app. When it hit the iTunes and Google Play stores in July, Snapchat didn’t make much of a splash.

But that’s not because it wasn’t a good idea. The Snapchat app is a pretty innovative idea that has used anonymity to carve out a special place in the app market.

While photo apps like Instagram boast hundreds of filters, Snapchat has just one primary feature: it deletes your photos shortly after you send them. After you snap a pic, you set a self-destruct timer. Once the recipient opens the photo, they have up to 10 seconds to enjoy the picture before its deleted forever.


The Snapchat Photo App

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If there’s a good use for Snapchat app other than sending dirty pictures, I can’t think of any. And what’s wrong with that? Well, Snapshot seems to cater to young people.

Bloggers at sites like BuzzFeed have pointed out that the pictures on Snapchat’s website exclusively feature models that look like high school-aged kids.

There aren’t any demographics out there to break down the ages of Snapchat’s users. And Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel told Tech Crunch that Snapchat wasn’t even meant for sexting, much less teens.

But do a quick image search of Snapchat on the web or look at the screen shots on the app’s iTunes or Google Play page and you’ll see plenty of pictures of teens in varying states of undress. Spiegel may not have meant for Snapchat to be a teen sexting vehicle, but it seems to have happened anyway. Even the New York Times seems to have sniffed out the trend.

The big question is, do we care? When the camera was first invented, pictures were meant to last forever. But as it turns out, forever can be a mighty long time — especially on the internet.

Facebook and Twitter have left teens and adults overexposed and lead to countless cases of undeletable embarrassment, firing and scandal. And companies like Skype freely reveal personal details of their users to their employees.

In response to users looking for a little relief, the market abounds with privacy-centered apps like Snapchat. And companies like GSM Nation sell unlocked phones that offer users the freedom of choosing pay-as-you-go plans or carriers who won’t give up their personal information to the first interloper that asks.

And while you can say that teenagers shouldn’t be allowed to sext, that’s not going to stop them. And maybe apps like Snapchat offer an important type of anonymity that will keep teenage mistakes from having big consequences like they did for Amanda Todd, the teen whose leaked nude photographs eventually led to her suicide.


Sexting with Snapchat

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But some parents don’t like Snapchat’s added anonymity. A parent recently reported to BuzzFeed that she used a picture’s permanence and possible dissemination to warn her daughter against sexting with dirty pictures. But now that Snapchat is here, that argument is no longer valid.

What do you think? Do privacy apps like Snapchat add to the problem of sexting among minors? Or does Snapchat  help keep them safe by making it harder to disseminate the photos? Sound off in the comments section and let us know what you think.