How it Works:
Once you load the app and login, you can take a photo, edit it, add a caption or other "doodles." Then you select the friends to send the photo to and set a timer from 1 to 10 seconds. Once the photo message is sent, the receiver has the time set by the timer to look at the photo before the message "self-destructs."
Friends can then take their own photo to reply or just send a message back.
The app obviously works well when all parties have immediate access to their phones. If one party is in class or not able to respond quickly to the message, the photo and message will be lost. So it is important to use SnapChat for its intended purpose and remember that not all the recipient parties will be able to respond quickly enough to see the message.
While the photo message disappears from the phone after a few seconds, it does not prevent the receiver from snapping a screenshot of the photo while it is live. To SnapChat's credit, if a receiver takes a screenshot of the photo, the sender is notified, but that may not be enough to prevent the photo from being shared later with others.
In addition, if a receiver knows that a message is coming, he or she could take a photo of the screen with another phone or digital camera and the sender would never know that their supposedly "evaporating" photo would be alive and well on someone else's device.
SnapChat could also be a temptation for teens to use it for "sexting" because the risks of having the photo eventually making the rounds of the Internet are lower. But as indicated above, they are not absolute. Parents who allow their children to have SnapChat need to have a real, live, one-on-one chat with their children about the risks associated with the false sense of security that SnapChat may provide.
The Bottom Line SnapChat can be a fun and engaging app when used appropriately. But it should be used carefully and with very specific ground rules or not used at all. Apps like SnapChat remind parents that we need to be vigilant about our children's smartphone use and to monitor their activity to prevent problems like sexting, cyberstalking, cyberbullying or other elements of the "dark side" of smartphone use by our children.