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What every parent needs to know about Snapchat

11:14 PM, Feb 14, 2013   |    comments
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Teens use Snapchat to sent pictures to friends.

ATLANTA -- Do you want to share a picture with a friend?

Of course there's Facebook, Instagram and Twitter...or there's Snapchat.

The picture-sharing app hasn't even been around two years, but Snapchat already hosts more than 60 million shared photos every day.

The premise is simple: you take a photo or video of yourself and send it to anyone on your friend list. But before sending, you set a timer to determine how long the photo will be visible. Each picture can only last up to ten seconds; so once it gets to your friend's phone, they look at it and seconds later, it disappears.

Or does it?

"There are lots of ways that people can actually save the photos," said Dr. Amy Bruckman, who studies kids' use of social media.

The Georgia Tech professor said the app may have been created for innocent fun, but the features could lead to dangerous consequences.

"It creates a kind of false sense of safety," she said. "The kids feel like it's safe and therefore do things they otherwise wouldn't."

And that's exactly what has some parents worried. Common Sense Media reports one in five teens admit to sending nude or partially nude photos via cell phone or social media.

For most kids, Snapchat is just innocent fun.

"I just send weird or awkward pictures of myself and I don't want other people saving them," laughed eighth-grader Bailey Jordon, who describes herself as an avid Snapchatter.

"Most people I know don't really send photos they don't want their parents seeing."

But not all teens are sold. Fellow eighth-grader Maddie Sell says while she uses Facebook and Instagram, she won't touch Snapchat.

"I just don't see it ending well for our age group," she said. "It can be used for bullying, and there's cases where it can be used for cheating. You can take a picture of a test and there's no proof because it disappears."

Parenting expert Lori Rader-Jacobs with Parent Coach Atlanta says the best move is to know the apps your kids are using. She suggests downloading the app on your phone to learn firsthand how it works.

"You have to be educated," she said. "You can't just keep your head in the sand."

She also suggests talking with your kids about the consequences of sending inappropriate pictures.

"If you put it out there, you can't get it back," she said. "Often times, parents will think 'my child is too young to have this conversation.' But if they're too young to have [that talk], they're probably too young to have the device."

Parent Coach Atlanta and Common Sense Media offer additional resources for parents looking to talk to their kids about social media.

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