A few days ago, the word Snappening began to make headlines. A suspected leak of thousands of images of young people had been claimed to have been ‘saved’ from the online app, Snapchat.
According to the report from The Telegraph, hackers accessed around 100,000 private photos and videos of Snapchat users over several years using a third-party service that saves images. Many have then appeared on the 4Chan website. As half of Snapchat’s users are aged between 13 and 17, there is concern many of the images might be of children.
For people of a certain age (or should that be, over a certain age), Snapchat is an enigma – in short, it is a messaging app allowing users to send images to one another to accompany a message on the basis that the image will disappear moments later.
Having recently spent many evenings in the company of someone under that age, the constant click of the electronic shutter aroused my curiosity and I questioned the appeal of using the app. I was told that ‘everyone uses it’ and that was quite simply the main attraction, despite her later admittance that she really couldn’t see the point! There is of course also an element of vanity, why else would it take several attempts to capture the perfect pose for this ‘temporary’ image.
So, when the Snappening first made the headlines, I turned to her to gauge the reaction. Initially there was a little shock (despite knowing that the images could be captured from Snapchat even before the leak), but that soon turned to indifference. It seems that for this particular peer group, only faces make it into the ‘chat’, so there was no concern that anything inappropriate could be leaked – and ‘so what’ if their faces were!
In this case, all of the images have been innocent, but it doesn’t take a huge leap of imagination to see how young people could see the attraction of sharing a fleeting image on the belief that it will only appear for a few seconds before disappearing forever. It seems that they are a little misguided on the power of the Internet and the technology surrounding it. A colleague recently commented “the internet, a hard drive or anything digital leaves a trail! It's like etching in glass, you can smooth it out but if you use a microscope you will see that the image is still embedded into the core of the material like the imperfections in a diamond, invisible to the naked eye”.
So perhaps rather than seeing this as an isolated case only affecting Snapchat, we should be re-visiting the concept of the digital footprint and remind pupils that once something is on ‘The Internet’, be that words or pictures, you lose control. It is also an ideal opportunity to raise the subject of cyber bullying and sexting with pupils who may be using this or similar sites.
For now though, it seems that I am due for more evenings being punctuated with the constant click of the shutter, while the Snapchatting continues until it ceases to be the thing that “everyone” is doing.
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