by Liz Jacobson
USAFE-AFAFRICA Public Affairs
4/9/2015 - RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany -- "Hey, don't worry! It'll be fine; all of the pictures I send disappear after ten seconds. That's how Snapchat works."
This is a conversation many teenagers have had with their parents or
friends, me included. While many teenagers only share their silly,
cross-eyed, quadruple-chinned faces with friends, there are a growing
number of teenagers sending inappropriate content that "will disappear."
High school students all feel a certain level of anonymity or safeness
that does not exist while using the Internet and apps like Tinder,
Omegle, Chat Roulette, Instagram, and Snapchat. Unfortunately, it is
incredibly simple for the receiver take advantage of the content sent,
so the picture may be set to disappear after 10 seconds, but it lasts a
lot longer than that. While these apps can easily be used
inappropriately, the apps themselves are not bad, but should just be
It is easy to protect oneself online from predators, but it is rarely
done. The most effective way to keep information secure is to lock any
social media accounts and turn all privacy settings on. There are so
many people that spend their time clicking on pictures and profiles in
the Explore tab on Instagram. It is impossible to know who is viewing a
profile; it could be a friend from school or it could very easily be an
online predator. Before friending or accepting anyone's follow request,
it is necessary to actually know who they are. Social media is a great
tool for keeping in touch with friends, new or old, and family members,
but it is important to use caution and be responsible.
I have many friends that pride themselves on the fact they have over
one, two, or ten thousand followers. This is a dangerous habit because
it is impossible to be safe with so many unknown people seeing so much
about their lives.
This behavior and feeling of invincibility starts early. I remember in
middle school how Omegle was the best thing on the Internet. At
sleepovers or on a Saturday afternoon, young girls and boys would sit
around a laptop and pretend to be whomever they thought of, giving off
silly answers and laughing at the accents they pretended their user to
have. However, we all knew that unless you wanted to see "gross stuff"
to turn the camera off. Many of us have since moved on from this fear
and feel that sending pornographic content over apps is okay.
This attitude towards sharing everything on the Internet leads to
unfortunate, yet completely avoidable situations. Why do so many
teenagers participate in an activity that can have so many bad
repercussions? Teenage girls reported to dosomething.org and the
National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy that there are three major
reasons for their sending of nude photos: as a joke, to feel sexy, or
because of peer pressures.
Sending inappropriate photos is not a joke nor will it boost a
person's confidence. While it may be a thrill at first, the
psychological damage could deteriorate a girl or boy's self-esteem. Peer
pressure is a horrible, but real-life thing. Everyone experiences peer
pressure at some point or another in his or her lifetime, but your body,
whether you are male or female, is yours.
For teenagers, Snapchat is the most common app where pictures are
shared. Snapchat is available for anyone, regardless of age and it is
based on the idea of pictures disappearing forever after 10 seconds.
Despite this, it is easy to either screenshot the picture or use a
third-party app that will save the picture automatically for you. These
pictures can be used against the sender at the receiver's convenience.
Even two people that have a trusting relationship should not partake in
this kind of activity for two reasons: 1.) It is illegal. Any picture
shared that is pornographic in nature is considered pornography and both
parties can go to jail. 2.) It can easily be shared or shown to others
that were not the intended audience.
According to dosomething.org, 17 percent of sexters share the messages
they receive with others, and 55 percent of those share them with more
than one person. Everyone wants to believe that their friends would
never betray them, but we have all seen the stories of a girl's pictures
being spread around school as a prank or because she made someone mad.
These situations are so damaging to a person's confidence and
reputation. It is common to think that someone in a close circle are not
going to end up like those girls, or boys, but it can easily happen to
anyone with just the click of a button.
The number of people sharing inappropriate pictures is increasing, 1in 5
teenagers according to dosomething.org, but it may be even scarier that
the senders are getting younger. It is hard to imagine that 7th and 8th
grade students are sending such mature content, but it is happening. I
have a little sister and I believe that it is my job to warn her and
educate on her on the dangers of sexting and online predators. Everyone
in high school should be doing this, as well. Do not encourage it by
talking about how much fun and how safe it is in the locker room. Do not
make it seem okay to these young, impressionable girls and boys. Do not
be afraid to stand up against pressures of sending inappropriate photos
across the Internet.