Snapchat, a new mobile app, is the latest form of socializing among teens and tweens.
As is the case with other social media, however, there exists the opportunity for abuse: and Snapchat is already on some area law enforcement agencies' radar. As one CNN technology writer noted, the app is most commonly associated with sexting.
"It’s a fun tool to have but it could also be a dangerous tool," Hopkinton School Resource Officer Phil Powers said. "It can allow for bullying that can't be traced after the picture is gone."
Snapchat, available for smartphones running the iPhone and Android operating software, allows users to send pictures from one device to another. Once a picture is opened, the receiver can only view the message for up to 10 seconds before it is automatically deleted.
"It’s a goofy way to send funny pictures that can’t be saved," Hopkinton High School senior Erin Marceau said.
However, in some cases, the information can be saved by the receiver.
"We've had instances where someone sends a picture, and then the receiver takes a screenshot and is able to save the picture," Powers said.
Powers said that while most of the time the app is good fun, it can be used for bullying and other harassment.
Devin Dourney, a college student from Hopkinton, said she has been using the app for a while, but has never had experiences with bullying or sexting on the app.
"It sounds like a way for people to send naked pictures but no one actually does," Dourney said. "If someone did that to me I would stop chatting with them; it's just weird."
According to Powers, however, sending sexually explicit messages, also know as sexting, is more common that people will admit. It is also illegal if the sender or receiver is under 18.
"If you have a girl sending a sexual picture to her boyfriend and after a breakup he forwards that to his friends, that is distribution of child pornography," Powers said. "But it's also distribution when she takes the picture of herself [as a minor] and sends it. Or if she is over 18 and sends the picture to a minor."
The app, according to Dourney and Marceau, is a way to express boredom or other feelings without having to worry about it coming back to haunt you later. One of the things that makes them feel safe using the app is that they know who they are talking to.
"The only way people can find you is by having their user name or phone number. You can’t search for people through the app," Dourney said.
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