Teens get sexual on Snapchat

By Poppy Wortman

Smartphone app that 'destroys' sent messages entices young people to share inappropriate photos.

Cambridge hairdresser Abbey Missen says Snapchat is part of her daily routine. Photo / Rhys Palmer
Cambridge hairdresser Abbey Missen says Snapchat is part of her daily routine. Photo / Rhys Palmer

So-called perishable pictures are enticing teens to share inappropriate photos of themselves in the belief the images will vanish after being viewed.

Snapchat is a smartphone app that lets users send their friends photos or videos, and add captions or doodles. Once the sent files are opened, the recipient can see the images for up to 10 seconds before the message self-destructs.

Although the app does not save users' images, many smartphones can capture the photos by recording the contents displayed on the screen.

Concerns have been raised about the app being used for "sexting" - sending sexually suggestive or naked photos. Those concerns have been realised with Facebook pages cropping up in the past week featuring "grabbed" images from Snapchat.

Cambridge hairdresser Abbey Missen, 22, says Snapchat is part of her daily routine.

"I snap all the time - no weird porn shots or anything, but hilarious ones between me and my friends. We poke fun at each other and sometimes send some inappropriate stuff, doodling on our faces for good giggles."

Missen says she and her boyfriend often play "idiots" when they snap each other.

"Nothing naked, I'm not that stupid, but definitely stuff I wouldn't want anyone else feasting their eyes on. It's just so tempting, the idea it disappears. It makes you send material you wouldn't in a normal text or private mail."

Student Antonio Karlos, 24, says he is a daily Snapchatter and bases content on how well he knows the recipient.

"Many of my photos have involved full-frontal nudity," he says. "My close community of Snapchat friends are all very similar to me, and send photos back of borderline images or videos that you would not be proud of showing your grandparents ... I'm not sure if the images disappear for good, but I bloody hope so."

Snapchat's privacy policy states the service temporarily processes and stores images: "Although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible after the message is received by the recipient ... we are not able to guarantee that your messaging data will be deleted in all instances. Messages, therefore, are sent at the risk of the user."

Netsafe chief technology officer Sean Lyons says there hasn't been widespread concerns but Snapchat needs to be used carefully.

High-school student Laura Barrow, 17, says Snapchat has become her "way of life". "The more horrifying odd shapes you can make with your face or weird things you can show yourself or your friends doing, the better," she says.

"I screenshot everything immediately, in case it's a one-second goodie, then delete after as appropriate. I don't worry about them resurfacing later on.

"I'm not silly, though. It has the potential to be a magical sponge of blackmail."

The Snapchat website states the app is for enjoying the "lightness of being". "The allure of fleeting messages reminds us about the beauty of friendship - we don't need a reason to stay in touch."

'Erased' photos go on show for the world to see

Student Jacinta McKissock disapproves of personal images being shared with just anyone.

Facebook pages are showing embarrassing photos that smartphone users assumed would be automatically deleted.

An international page called Snapchat Leaked amassed 534,000 likes in less than a day, before Facebook deactivated it after numerous complaints. However, several copycat pages have already sprung up - some apparently local.

Christchurch student Jacinta McKissock, 15, found out an image of her was on a page when her cousin came across it and told her.

"I was upset about it because I thought with Snapchat screenshotting, people would keep them to themselves, not put it on Facebook where everyone could see it." Snapchat pictures are supposed to be erased 10 seconds after being viewed, in theory.

Aucklander Beki Diamond, 20, uploaded a risque joke snapped to her from a male friend.

"I think the page was great. You shouldn't be snapping inappropriate things to people if you aren't prepared to accept the risk that it may be shared on further."

Wynette Mulder, 17, from Christchurch, says she deleted Snapchat from her smartphone because she was disgusted with snaps she received and after seeing the Facebook page.

"I've had some inappropriate photos sent to me that I did not want, which is why I don't like it.

Just because it only lasts 10 seconds doesn't mean it's not wrong."

An Australian "Snapchat's funniest screenshots" page is still running and has more than 150,000 likes.

- Herald on Sunday

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