SnapChat App Destroys Photos Seconds After Sending

A photo app that delivers images meant to disappear once viewed has some parents and schools concerned. Snapchat moves over 100 million images a day — but critics say some of that might be sexual in nature. Youth Radio's Sunday Simon uses Snapchat, and reports on how her circle of friends views the controversy.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

We used to speak of a Kodak moment, a fleeting event that you want to capture in a picture to last a lifetime. So what do you call a photo that you only want to keep for a moment? Some new photo-sharing apps have become popular precisely because the photos have limited lives. Facebook Poke and Wickr both make photos self-destruct. And then there's Snapchat, pictures last 10 seconds at the most. It is the most popular of this kind, especially among teens.

For that story, we turned to Sunday Simon of Youth Radio.

SUNDAY SIMON, BYLINE: Imagine passing a note in class that disappears before the teacher can even see it. Now you can do just that using Snapchat. Your friend sends a picture to your phone, you look at it once and it's gone forever. According to the company, Snapchat users share 150 million photos a day. A lot of those pics were sent by teenagers, like me.

Outside of my high school, my friends Kreona Turner and Christolenae Thomas help me demonstrate how the app works.

KREONA TURNER: Log in...

CHRISTOLENAE THOMAS: Snapchat.

TURNER: ...Snapchat and it's a yellow box...

THOMAS: Box with a white ghost.

TURNER: ...with a white ghost

SIMON: And it'll open up to your camera. There's a big blue button and you click it like this.

THOMAS: I would take a picture.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: And it shows you the picture. And then the most fun part is you get to set the timer.

THOMAS: There's a time that you could set on it.

TURNER: From one to 10.

THOMAS: From one to 10.

SIMON: I choose three 'cause, I'm evil.

THOMAS: And then you click send.

TURNER: Now I have to wait for it to come up in my notifications. And she just sent me: Hey.

SIMON: And then it's gone, like a ghost. Seems innocent, but as you may have guessed by now, this disappearing app makes adults pretty nervous.

(SOUNDBITE OF NEWS CLIPS)

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: So experts say this new app...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Could pave the way to more teens...

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: To send inappropriate photos...

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #3: Sexting.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2: Sexting.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #4: Sexting.

SIMON: Is that all adults think Snapchat is good for? I kind of get it. It seems like the app is made for sexting because you can send someone an intimate picture without worrying about it being shared with the world, which is Carlyn Byne's social nightmare.

CARLYN BYNE: You know my worst fear is in the digital age with love? What if somebody screenshot me and then put me on blast?

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #5: Ooh, we just screenshooted you.

SIMON: Don't get too comfortable, though. Even on Snapchat, when you get a picture and really want to keep it, if you're faster than the self-destruct timer you can save a screenshot and it becomes a regular photo.

But I don't even know anybody who uses Snapchat to sext. An online poll from the Survata Research Network found that of 700 Snapchat users only 13 percent had ever sent what they called photos of a sexual nature. My mom, Delores Thompson, knows that's not what I use it for, though, she doesn't really get why I use it at all.

DELORES THOMPSON: If I send somebody a picture, I want them to have the picture. I mean, this is not "Mission Impossible," when I give you a secret code from the FBI and then it should disappear or go away. So I don't understand the purpose. It's clever but I don't get it.

SIMON: OK, here's what to get. For a lot of teenagers, Facebook has become a place where you try to make your life look perfect. Instagram is a popularity contest. That leaves Snapchat. The other day, my friend sent me a Snapchat of her wearing one boxing glove. She's got her hand up like she's about to swing, and the glove has a smiley face drawn on it in black Sharpie, and she's laughing. And the text says: We 'bout to fight - LOL.

(LAUGHTER)

SIMON: It's nothing more than making a silly face, like sticking your tongue out at a friend. The whole thing only last a moment but it stays with me, like in real life.

For NPR News, I'm Sunday Simon.

SIEGEL: That story was produced by Youth Radio.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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