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Snapchat and Poke: What’s Next?

The New “Safe Sexting App”

In early June I first heard of a new app that would allow individuals to send inappropriate messages without detection by others. The application is called Snapchat and is offered as a photo and video messaging application. To that end, users can take photos, record videos, add text and drawings, and send them to a pre-defined list of recipients. The Snapchat user sets a time limit for how long recipients can view their video or photos — up to 10 seconds. Following that period the images are deleted from the recipient’s device.

As with so many applications in Silicon Valley – Snapchat was developed to solve the unintended consequences of other applications. In this case, inappropriate photos and texts being able to be saved or forwarded.

The genius of Snapchat lies within the minds of Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy. The application started as a project at Stanford University where Spiegel was a product design major. It was officially launched as a business in Spiegel’s father’s living room in September 2011. Today the application receives up to 90 million texts per day. Since its start, other similar applications have been launched including Facebook’s POKE.

Recently, ABC News broadcast this brief story about Snapchat and it use among teens and young adults. As the video indicates – nothing is necessarily private when you click send.

Having now spoken to over 53,000 students I never had questions concerning this app from students or parents. However, over the past month it’s been a question raised by several high school students and many parents.

In a recent presentation to a private girls school a young woman asked, “What do you think of Snapchat? Does it really work?” I was surprised that so many of the girls seem to know about the app and were interested in my response.

At a suburban public elementary school one mother commented, “Have you heard of Snapchat? Should we be concerned about the possibilities of this type of application?” Many of the parents wondered out loud as well.

Questions such as these are no longer the exception – but rather the norm — as well they should be. There is a new world of applications, websites and cultural trends which are difficult to absorb and act upon. We as parents, grandparents, guardians, teachers and school administrators have many responsibilities related to the youth placed in our care. However, today’s cultural trends and accompanying technology are as important to understand as that of a child’s academic progress and medical history.

So back to our questions: Does Snapchat work? Should parents be concerned? The answers in their proper order are: Sometimes and yes.

Does Snapchat work?

In a recent article in the Huffington Post, Dominique Mosbergen wrote, “Other than concerns about bullying and underage sexting, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Snapchat messages, once thought to be super secure because of their extremely short lifespan, are not quite as fleeting as previously believed. In recent months, at least two security loopholes, which would allow recipients to save Snapchat images or clips for keeps, were discovered and made public. This week, a third Snapchat “hack” was revealed.

The Snapchat “hack,” first reported by TechCrunch, allow users to save screenshots of ‘snaps’ easily through a few easy steps. These screenshots are saved secretly, without the knowledge of the sender.
There are also many videos on Youtube related to circumventing the feature of Snapchat that makes photos and videos disappear. For example: This video illustrates how ifunbox can easily assist in saving images without sending an alert back to the sender.

Should parents be concerned?

Absolutely! However, anyone using Snapchat or Poke for sending inappropriate material should be concerned. Although I believe there are many more good people in the world than bad – it only takes one person who does not have the best interest of you or your child to ruin a life. One misguided, inappropriate photo or video in the hands of the wrong person can alter the life of anyone.

Consider Amanda Todd and the many other girls who provided inappropriate images of themselves thinking that it would be kept private. Unfortunately for Amanda, it lead to constant hostility, cyber bullying and ultimately her suicide in October of 2012.

However, given this past Presidential campaign, you’ll recall each candidate jockeying to find material from their opponent’s youth that might damage their reputation. These were two men over the age of 50 that grew up in an era without millions of cell phones and social media sites capable of capturing every embarrassing action of their youth.

Today’s generation will not have the luxury of their past actions hidden in the darkness of their memory. Many of their misdeeds, actions and lapses in judgment will be captured and waiting for this generation’s rise to prominence in business, education or politics. Imagine how high that bar might be in the future to secure the favor and judgment of the press, their country and their own children.

Mistakes today will live forever… and forever is a very long time.

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