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What parents should know about Snapchat app

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Nov 16th, 2012 @ 5:38pm

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SALT LAKE CITY — Most teens use it for fun and games, to make "ugly faces" and interact in a way they never could before on social media. Others, though -- when nobody is looking -- snap a revealing or even naked pic and send it, knowing it will be gone and, hopefully, out of view in seconds.

Such is life on Snapchat, an app on iPhone and Android that appears to be growing exponentially more popular across the country and among Utah teens. It allows users to snap a pic, send it to others and assign when the pic expires, or is no longer viewable. A picture can be viewed from one second to 10 seconds.

The app is currently the fourth-most popular for iPhone, and a group of students at one high school said they believe as many as 70 percent of their classmates have it on their smart phones.

"I think it's more fun than texting because you get a picture with it - you can kind of tell the emotion with the text," Syracuse High School junior Adam Johnson said.

Six students from Syracuse High - all who use Snapchat - sat down with KSL Thursday and talked about why they liked it and how they used it.

"Me and my sister just use it to send ugly pictures," junior Shayla Franklin said. "I just think it's so fun."

The students said their parents know about their Snapchat use, and they never have used it deviously - though they acknowledged others probably did.

A brief search on Twitter using the term "Snapchat" revealed a number of teens in the Salt Lake City area who appeared to be looking to "sext" with the app.

"Live a little & sext me over snap chat," one locally generated tweet read.

"I need want Snapchat nudes," read another.

"You can flash people with Snapchat's timer thing," a third observed.

The danger is nothing lasts for a few seconds - it could last forever.

–Paul Murphy, Utah Attorney General's Office

The potential for "sexting" and the consequences are not lost on law enforcement and prosecutors.

"The danger is nothing lasts for a few seconds - it could last forever," Utah Attorney General's spokesman Paul Murphy said.

The app's timer can easily be defeated with a frame grab, though the app does notify the sender if a screenshot is taken. Murphy said somebody could take advantage of the app in a more sophisticated manner.

"Really, you could take a second camera, take a picture of it, that person could have that image and then distribute it to millions of people worldwide in a matter of seconds," Utah Attorney General's spokesman Paul Murphy said. "So I think it's absolute foolishness."

Other districts are watching for misuse of the app - along with all other new technologies.

"It would be silly to say that it's not happening," said Granite School District spokesman Ben Horsley. "As far as it becoming a prevailing problem at this time, it's not something that we're noticing."

Horsley acknowledged only so much takes place during school hours, and while personal responsibility is preached on a daily basis in classrooms - parents share in the duty to ensure their children and teenagers are not getting into trouble with technology.

Veronica Johnson, a parent who has two Syracuse High students on Snapchat - including Adam Johnson -- said the key is for parents to keep an open dialogue with their children about their social media use.

"It's not going to be different than anything else that they have - texting, Facebook," Johnson said. "They know the rules."

Tyler Olpin, another junior at Syracuse, was skeptical of the app's use for sexting.

"I'm sure it happens, but you don't have to use the app to do it," Olpin said. "You could just send the picture, so I don't think it's changing anything."

KSL's attempt to contact Snapchat, Inc., for comment resulted in no response Thursday.

In May, Snapchat co-founder Evan Spiegel in an interview with website TechCrunch dismissed the idea the app is suited for sexting.

"I'm not convinced that the whole sexting thing is as big as the media makes it out to be," Spiegel told the site. "I just don't know people who do that."

Spiegel told TechCrunch the application was designed to make online communication "more human and natural" and not permanent. He said most user feedback had been about sending "funny faces and messages, not racy images."


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