Snap Chat No More
Parents should be extremely cautious if their child is using Snapchat. Snapchat is an app that allows individuals to send images and videos to friends and permits the sender to place a time limit on how long the receiver of the image or video can view it. The images “disappear” in 1 – 10 seconds depending on the limit set by the sender. It is also believed to be “deleted” from the Snapchat servers. This “disappearing” is intended to give the sender a sense of security with the understanding that the image will not be retained on the receivers’ phone forever. One positive attribute of this app is that the images and videos are sent much faster than ordinary texting.
However, the serious downsides of Snapchat…
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[membership]appear to far outweigh its positive attributes. Unfortunately, due to its nature, adolescents frequently use Snapchat to send nude “snaps”, thinking that the images self-destruct. Snapchat gives the sender a false sense of security. According to computer forensic experts, the images are never really deleted from the phone and can be easily recovered by experts. Computer forensic analysis has uncovered many “deleted” images during criminal investigations of sexual assault or child pornography cases. In addition, numerous pornography sites are surviving and thriving on stealing this free content off of phones.
It is estimated that there are approximately 100 million monthly users of Snapchat, and approximately 400 million Snapchats per day. In addition, nearly 75% of all Snapchat users are under the age of 25. Some estimate that 32% of Snapchat users are between the ages of 13 and 17. The minimum age to use Snapchat is 13. Snapchat is clearly a popular app and is used by millions of adolescents every day. However, the popularity of apps come and go and in time Snapchat use may fade. Nevertheless, there will likely always be an app that provides the sender with the false sense of security that their sent images will self-destruct.
We urge parents to talk to children about the consequences of sending provocative images via text and apps. These images can be recovered by forensic analysis AND pornography sites can hack phones and servers to steal images for monetary gain. In addition, some receivers of Snapchat images can take screen shots of the image without the Snapchat sender’s knowledge. In my forensic practice I have interviewed adolescents who’s Snapchats were widely distributed without their knowledge and the possessors (adolescent peers) of the images were investigated for possessing child pornography. The Technology Wellness Center does not recommend that children have access to these apps; however, if children do use Snapchat, parents need to have repeated discussions with their children. Parents must also have a good understanding of their state’s possession or distribution of child pornography statutes.