Image messaging and multimedia mobile application Snapchat is at the centre of the latest drama plaguing National's Hutt South MP Chris Bishop.

But what is the popular social media app and why is it frequently making headlines and causing controversy?

Snapchat is a mobile app that allows its users to send messages, photos, videos, text and drawings.

Videos, photos and messages disappear shortly after they are received, although users receiving these can re-play the item. Messages can also be saved in the app's messaging platform.

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The app was created by former Stanford University students Evan Spielgel, Bobby Murphy and Reggie Brown and developed by Snap Inc.

The app has come under scrutiny for the part it has played in controversy around National MP Chris Bishop's communication with young New Zealanders.

Bishop says he changed his policy around using social media app Snapchat to message young people after learning that parents were "unsure" about it.

The move follows revelations on the weekend that Bishop was confronted before last year's election by a mother upset at him for messaging her daughter and other minors.

"I wanted to confront him as many parents felt very uncomfortable that their children were messaged," the mother told Fairfax.

Fairfax reported that none of the parents were concerned that Bishop's intentions "were anything other than misguided".

It's not the first time Snapchat has made headlines for the wrong reasons.

Netsafe recently raised child safety concerns about a Snapchat feature revealing users' locations - amid fears it could be used for stalking.

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Parents were warned to turn off "Snap Maps" on their children's phones after Snapchat introduced the location-sharing mode.

Late last year, concerns were raised by Snapchat's CEO himself about the possibility the app was fuelling fake news.

"After all, how many times have you shared something you've never bothered to read?" Evan Spiegel said.

Snapchat made moves to separate what friends share and what media organisations publish in an attempt to appeal to a broader audience.

And the app has caused a stir for the part it often played in schoolyard incidents like bullying or fights.

Footage of topless dirt-bike riding schoolgirls cropped up on both Snapchat and Facebook last year when an end-of-year prank went wrong at Hamilton Boys' High School.

That stunt ended with a Hamilton Boys' High School student sustaining a badly cut leg.