Apps could lend way to secret sexting for kids

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - There are several, hot applications on the smart phone market right now that may seem innocent up front, but could pose hidden dangers. One of the most popular apps on the Apple and Android market is called "Snapchat".

It's an app that allows you to send pictures back and forth without fear of those pictures ever being seen. It's been on the market for over a year now. Promoted as an app "to share awkward selfies and funny photos with friends."

Region 8 News sat down with a mother and daughter to talk about the app.

12-year-old Madison has had the app for a few months now. "It's not that big of a deal," Madison said. She told Region 8 News that on average, she probably sends one friend 12 "snaps" a day. "That's a lot, I know."

Her mom, Stephanie, isn't entirely on board with the idea though. "I think it's kind of silly," Stephanie told Region 8 News. Especially after the premise of the app was explained to her.

"A picture that lasts for so many seconds...that you can send it for 5 seconds, 10 seconds," Stephanie explained. Then, the picture is said to delete forever from the phone.

With Snapchat's newest upgrade, Apple users now have the ability to send videos as well as pictures.

Stephanie told Region 8 News she automatically realized what these fast-deleting photos could mean

"A way to sext, for sexting," Stephanie said.

The concept of using Snapchat for sexting isn't lost on the Jonesboro Police Department either.

"They get these programs, put them onto their smart phones and they can send inappropriate pictures and or inappropriate texts," Detective Ernest Ward with JPD told Region 8 News.

Detective Ward said kids may believe the pictures are gone forever after they've been opened and self-destruct. However, since users have to sign up for the app, Ward explained that the photos do go through a server somewhere.

"Even though the website for the app may indicate that these pictures and/or messages cannot be read by employees, most likely, through the right legal process, law enforcement, whether it be local, state or federal can obtain these messages and photos," Ward said.

Keep in mind, if inappropriate photos of an underage person is found online, it's illegal. "It's a felony," Ward explained.

Detective Ward said this could land someone with a sex offender status.

Stephanie told Region 8 News she believes it's important to open the lines of communication between you and your child

"The key is always communication, just keeping a good relationship with your kid," Stephanie advised. "I don't think you should stick your head in the sand, but I don't think you can totally control them either. You've just always gotta work to find that happy medium."

This particular app is meant for innocent back and forth pictures. Even the Terms and Conditions upon signing up for the app say not to use the app for sexting but it can be abused. There are other apps out there that "self-destruct" pictures or messages too. Some of the many apps on the market include "My Destructible Text," "Wickr," "TigerText," and "CATE" among many others.

The best advice for parents is knowledge. Educating yourself on apps that are on your child's phone so you can know exactly what they've downloaded.

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