TODAY   |  December 04, 2012

Snapchat app has parents of teens concerned

New photo-sharing app Snapchat has become highly popular among teens, but it’s raising concern among parents that it may be offering teens a false sense of security about sending compromising photos. NBC’s Andrea Canning reports.

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>> a parent you try to meet your kids' friends and know where they are hanging out, but do they know what they are doing on their phones? nbc's acanning is here with a look at the heatest new app raising concerns for a lot of parents. andrea, good morning.

>> good morning. i've never heard of this until now. it's called snap chat and it's popular because you take a photo like this. you send it and it is already self-destructing on the internet as we speak. it's the most popular app for teens today, and the fourth overall. the new technology is a lot of fun but it's also giving a false sense of security. with three taps on your phone you can be part of the hottest photo-sharing app today. snapchat, and what makes this app so different is that it promises your photos will disappear from cyber space after just ten seconds.

>> yeah. it's good because it can't be like seen again so like if you take an ugly picture no one can see it anywhere up to that.

>> reporter: with up to 1,000 photos sent per second snapchat is taking the smartphone world by storm and with most users between the ages of 13 and 24 and snapchat's logo and self-described juvenile interface, experts caution that kids could be using the app in a much more adult way.

>> i any kind of an app creates a false sense of security with teens because there's something very alluring about being able to take risks and do things where there will be no evidence afterwards.

>> reporter: those risks could include sexting, sending explicit photos from a phone. searching the popular social media site twitter for the term snapchat reveals numerous tweets for people to sext with the hot new app the. one says hit me up with the cleavage on snapchat. greatly appreciated. practice safe sexting and officials warn snapchat is not foolproof.

>> that person could have that image and distribute it to people in a second.

>> reporter: snapchat founder evan speakal said we built snapchat to give people a fun, expressive and authentic way to have conversations. if a snapchatter ever receives a snap from one of their friend that they find offensive, we recommend taking a screenshot, blocking and reporting the user. we've been blown away by the enthusiasm for the app from people of all ages.

>>> and with any internet risk, experts say the key for parents is to communicate.

>> talk to your kids about safety and privacy early and often. the internet is not going away, and it's best to just have the conversation and keep the channels of communication open so that hopefully your kids will make better choices.

>> good advice. while the foesos disappear in a matter of seconds it's possible to take a screen shot of the image. in that case the sender actually gets a notification from snapchat that the recipient saved their photo, that's good and by then it could be way too late and the photo is out there to see forever.

>> my 11-year-old son jack is getting his first phone when he's 33. i've made a decision based on this. andrea, thank you very much.