Snapchat is risky business

It is an app many students have on their phones.

Although believed to be harmless, Snapchat, a popular picture messaging app, is something many teens use without attentiveness.

Created by Evan Speigel and Robert Murphy while enrolled in Stanford, the app immediately took off as soon as it was released. According to the Snapchat team, 400 million snaps are sent each day. Once a photo or video is taken, the user may add a caption or draw on the photo and then “snap” the image to a recipient. But unlike Snapchat’s friendly outer appearance, it has penalties many teens are unaware of.

Kelly Haut, a junior English teacher, said Snapchat is anything but safe for students to be using.

“Snapchat creates a false sense of security, and nothing you publish on the internet or social media goes away forever in ten seconds,” Haut said.

Snapchat’s privacy policy says, “We collect information you provide directly to us. For example, we collect information when you create an account, use the Services to send or receive a message (a “snap”), request customer support or otherwise communicate with us.” The policy later states, “When you send or receive snaps, we also temporarily collect, process and store the contents of the Snaps (such as photos, videos and/or captions) on our servers.” Even though it is “temporary,” this does not follow the common belief that snaps are only able to be seen by the sender and recipient.

Snapchat photos and videos can be viewed for one to 10 seconds, before “disappearing” from the recipient. However, iPhone users are able to screenshot a photo by holding the home and off button at the same time and save it to their personal gallery before it disappears. When a snap has been screenshotted, the sender is alerted, but recently there have been apps such as SnapCrack, SavePics and SnapBox which will screenshot the photo without the sender being notified. These photos can then be shown to other people who the photo was not destined for. Haut said she has seen numerous problems arise because of students using Snapchat in her class.

“I’ve caught students snapchatting tests at least three times in class, and I’ve also seen it cause issues for other people outside of class,” Haut said.

In 2013, Snapchat installed a new feature allowing users to post pictures and videos to their “story,” which allows the users entire Snapchat contact list to view the image or video until it disappears after 24 hours. The photo or video may be deleted or saved to their personal image album by the user before disappearing.

Junior Katherine Alcober said Snapchat is a fun way to interact with friends, but it has consequences if not used with good judgment.

“It’s fun and I like it,” Alcober said. “But you have to be really careful what you send because someone might screenshot it.”

Although many teens are unaware, Snapchat was originally created and is often used for sending sexually explicit photos.  Many teens resort to sexting over Snapchat because of the belief that no one besides the recipient will see it.

“It can definitely get out of hand,” Alcober said. “It can be used for sending nudes and pretty intense things, but I use it to send funny and awkward photos to my friends.”

Many teens who use Snapchat forget the negative risks it potentially holds. However, most of the time, Snapchat is used as an entertaining app to send silly and harmless pictures to one another. Sophomore DJ Herrington agreed with Alcober and said Snapchat is a fun way to exchange photos and videos with friends.

“Generally it’s used in a good way, but people can be inappropriate with it,” Herrington said.