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Popular new app has inherent risks

PEORIA -- "Snapchat" is one of the most popular apps out there.
PEORIA -- "Snapchat" is one of the most popular apps out there. More than 50-million images are sent on it each day. But, what may be intended for friendly fun, can be a tempting way for teens to send provocative images. Alexandra Sutter files this special report.

It's called "Snapchat," and through sending a quick image, it offers another way to communicate. The hook? Your recipient is only supposed to see the image for ten seconds.

"You just, like, take pictures of yourself and then you can type a message and send it to somebody."

Its target audience is "tweens," high-schoolers and twenty-somethings.

"Do all your friends use it?"

"Yeah!"

"Is it pretty popular?"

"Yeah!"

But, what lures many users in is the idea that its images disappear. They say they can send any type of picture, and knowing it will go away is what makes it fun.

"I mean, it's just endless possibilities."

"It's just a different way to text messages, I guess, to keep it interesting."

"Sometimes I'll make a really silly face, and I'm like, 'I don't want them looking at it too hard, 'caus I don't have make-up on, so, like, oh, five seconds.' You can't do much with it, so it's just for the fun of it."

However, for parents, the capabilities of Snapchat can be frightening.

"Parents don't really know what they're taking pictures of, or what they're doing, so it could be quite scary for parents."

"It only takes one moment of indiscretion and you could be branded for life, really."

"It looks like this, you open the app, take a picture and then you decide how long you'll let your recipient see it. But what many users don't take into consideration, you can take a snapshot. Saving the image, just like a normal picture, with a life-span that could last forever."

"I think it's definitely a responsibility just like Facebook or texting. Obviously, there's sexting everywhere and things like that, and that's a danger for people. They need to realize, 'OK, you can take a screen shot and this could go viral.'"

"It could be bad in some situations. You know, it's pictures. Sometimes pictures tell stories that don't need to be out there."

If you Google search Snapchat, or use # on Twitter, you'll see thousands of snaps, proving that what many users believe is a fleeting message, can actually leave a permanent, digital imprint.

"Do you ever worry about people saving that image and putting it on Facebook?"

"Sometimes, because I don't want to look stupid."

Paul Monrad is the Director of Prevention Education at the Center for Prevention of Abuse. He says parents need to help their kids understand the potential consequences that an app like Snapchat can have.

"It's so exciting to them, that I don't believe they see the inherent danger. It just comes through knowledge like what we're doing right now, really exposing their inherent dangers and, you know, the potential harm it can do to students and children."

On Snapchat's privacy policy, it says it makes no guarantee the transmitted images will be deleted. "When you use Snapchat, we temporarily process and store your images, although we attempt to delete image data as soon as possible. We cannot guarantee it in every case." 

Social media expert Jim Ferolo says, like with any technology, there's always a loophole.

"You have to understand that there's always going to be work-arounds or hacks that people could leverage that would bypass any security measure that a company might put in place."

The app's millions of users say it's not going away anytime soon.

"You guys plan to keep using it?"

"Yeah, for a long time."

But, experts hope many young users won't snap something that will come back to haunt them. Experts say it's important for parents to keep an open conversation about what apps their kids may be using or what they may have access to online. They suggest getting familiar with these things and exploring them yourself so you can become knowledgeable before speaking to your child about it.
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