Snapchat is an app for smartphones that lets users send...

Snapchat is an app for smartphones that lets users send each other photos that last for up to 10 seconds and then disappear from the recipient's screen. Credit: Handout

My kids keep talking about something called Snapchat. What is that?

Snapchat is an app that seems to be all the rage among tweens and teens who have smartphones. Once you download the free app and create a user name, you can participate. It's like sending a photo text, but it lasts only 1 to 10 seconds, after which it disappears from the recipient's phone with no record of the picture.

Users can add a short text and drawings to the photo and can send them to one or multiple other Snapchat users. The kids send each other funny or silly photos of themselves that pop up on their phones and then slip away. Snapchat also recently added the ability to send a 10-second video. Recipients can respond in kind. More than 1 billion Snapchats have been sent, and 20 million are exchanged daily, according to the app's blog page. Snapchat was created by two Stanford University students and was launched in 2011.

The main concern for parents is whether their kids are using Snapchat to send sexually provocative pictures because the photos "disappear." "That gives these kids permission to send inappropriate things," says Locust Valley psychologist Leah Klungness, and it contradicts what parents have warned kids about photos being re-sent and going viral.

Klungness also worries about yet another popular app that reinforces kids' devotion to devices: "It's a type of technology that will only encourage constant attention to their smartphones as opposed to conversation in real life with friends."


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