On Your Side

New photo app raises concerns about kids sending inappropriate pictures

CREATED Feb 21, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - It's a new app that makes it easy for teens to sext.  Not only does it makes it easier, but it gives them a false sense of security that they won't get caught.

Snapchat is an app that allows you to send a photo that's supposed to disappear.  But what's the purpose behind a ghost text if not to send something you shouldn't be sending? Does the picture ever really go away?

We introduce you to the Bland family from Jackson.  It's not unusual for every member of the family to be on their phone or computer while sitting in the same room.

Mom Tracey says her daughter Gabby is always texting her friends.  "We have unlimited texting thank goodness, cuz she had 10,000 texts last month."

Both 15-year-old Gabby and her 13-year-old brother Tony also love their apps!

"There's so many, so a lot of them are fun, but some are just no point," Tony admits.

Gabby and her friends recently discovered a new app called Snapchat, which lets users share snapshots with their friends.

"Then you can set how many seconds someone can see it, and then you can send it to one of your friends on a list," Gabby explains.
 
Tracey trusts her daughter is only using the app for fun, but it's other people she's worried about.

"I don't want her sending or getting anything inappropriate, and then it being sent to the world and, you know, that's my fear."
 
When you take a picture on Snapchat, it's supposed to disappear within a few seconds, but does it really?

Mindi Giftos specializes in technology law at Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek S.C. in Milwaukee. 

"With any type of technology it can be saved, it's going to be saved somewhere, it can be shared.  It really isn't as temporary as many people might think it is," Giftos warns.

She says Snapchat users need to be careful what type of pictures they send.

"Generally speaking, if you put something out there, you don't have a great expectation to keep it private if you're already sharing it," Giftos explains.

Even Snapchat creator Evan Spiegel admitted in a recent NBC interview that the app isn't 100% secure.

"I think a really important thing to remember is that any image you send can be saved forever whether it be by someone taking a photo with another camera or someone taking a screenshot so it's not somewhere to send photos that you want to be secure," Spiegel warns.

The problem is, the app is aimed at high schoolers and college kids--who don't always think about the consequences of their actions.

"It's a good opportunity for parents to talk to kids, find out what apps they're using," Giftos suggests.  She adds, "One thing i always like to tell my kids is never put anything on social media you're not willing to put on the front page of the newspaper."

UWM student Max Kromm says he isn't too worried.  "I find it fun.  It could be bad if people abuse it obviously, like anything.  I usually just take funny pictures and stuff."

For now, Tracey doesn't want Gabby using Snapchat, and deleted it from her phone.

"I'm glad she cares and stuff, but the way I use it, I don't think she needs to worry about what I'm doing with it," Gabby says.  Tracey responds, "That's fair."

Snapchat does have some safeguards in place.  For example, if you send someone a picture and they take a screenshot of it, you are notified immediately that they saved your picture.  But if that happens the other person still has the picture.  The app can't prevent someone else from saving the picture, or control what the person does with it after that.