Generally speaking, Snapchat is a free ‘app’ that allows users to send photos or ‘selfies’ to each other for a set period of time (10 seconds or less). Not only is it included in the common array of social networking apps that most smartphone owners use alongside Facebook and Instagram, it is increasingly being used as a communication device rather than a fun way to send around meaningless, amusing selfies.
The first question to ask is: Why would people use Snapchat. It is extremely popular among the young and adolescent individuals, and less so among adults. Nick Bilton from the New York Times found that “(his friend’s) kids use it all the time”(Bilton [New York Times]; January 27 2014) acknowledging that children are overly impatient and due to the ease and timeliness of sending messages, and is known to be the most effective way to share a photo with a message, rather than using Facebook messenger and Instagram.
It also allows adults to be goofy as they are more wary on other services, as they do not take selfies on Facebook and Twitter, they do on Snapchat (Bilton; 2014)
I stayed with my friends in New Zealand last year, and realised that i had no ‘global roaming’ access, which pretty much made my Iphone as useful as an Ipod Touch, as my sim card became inactive once on an overseas carrier/server. I was relatively new to using Snapchat, and urged my friends and family over Facebook to get Snapchat so i could send text – like messages easily and quickly, since i had no way of contacting them through calls or texts – So this app is helpful too.
But then there are the issues and concerns about the app… Since children and adolescents are the dominant users of the app, it can provoke ‘sexting’ and cyber-bullying, which is the primary concern of parents who’s children use the app. Children under the age of 13 are only permitted to access a special version of Snapchat, Snapkidz, which they are automatically directed to upon sign up (Snapchat: Parents p.3). This shows that Snapchat is aware of potential issues that may arise, and handles them with a protected server to monitor against inappropriate ‘Snaps’.
But the Issue remains – What about the adolescent teenagers who can send whatever they like? For them, sexting has become easier, with reduced risk, as their photos are only seeable for up to 10 seconds before the image vanishes forever. In an age when young people are constantly being warned not to post inappropriate things online, Snapchat offers a degree of freedom by letting users share unfiltered thoughts or images without much fear of reprisal (Gross [CNN]; January 10 2013). Inevitably, this causes criticism from parents, as sexting has become so easy and it is now harder for parents to discover what their children are actually sharing.
While Snapchat may be a growing sexting tool, it is also a quick and helpful communication device that makes sending messages and photos an even easier process.
It’s social benefits? Easier and quicker communication, it provides harmless fun for adults as well as the youth, and a protective barrier on the content that children under the age of 13 are sharing (in terms of parental supervision).
Bilton, Nick; New York Times ‘Why I Use Snapchat’; January 27 2014; http://mobile.nytimes.com/blogs/bits/2014/01/27/why-i-use-snapchat-its-fast-ugly-and-ephemeral/
Gross, Doug; CNN ‘Snapchat: Sexting Tool, or the Next Instagram?’; January 10, 2013; http://edition.cnn.com/2013/01/03/tech/mobile/snapchat/index.html
Snapchat; ‘StaticFile’; http://www.snapchat.com/static_files/parents.pdf
Solis, Brian; 2013; www.briansolis.com
Low, Cherlynne; blog.laptopmag.com
Snapchat; 2014; www.snapchat.com