Ten seconds later, picture still exists

Story and photo by Liz Jacobson U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa Public Affairs
Courtesy photo by Liz Jacobson

There is a conversation many teenagers may have had with their parents or friends, including myself.

“Hey, don’t worry! It’ll be fine. All of the pictures I send disappear after ten seconds. That’s how Snapchat works.”

While many teenagers only share their silly, cross-eyed, quadruple-chinned faces with friends, there is a growing number of teenagers sending inappropriate content that will “disappear.”

High school students feel a certain level of safety that does not exist while using the Internet and apps such as Tinder, Omegle, Chat Roulette, Instagram and Snapchat. Unfortunately, it is incredibly simple for the receiver to take advantage of the sent content, and though the picture may disappear after 10 seconds, it can actually last a lot longer than that. While these apps can be used inappropriately, the apps themselves are not bad, and should just be used responsibly.

It is easy to protect yourself from online predators, but it is rarely done. The most effective way to keep information secure is to lock any social media accounts and turn on all privacy settings. Many people spend their time clicking on pictures and profiles, but it is impossible to know who is viewing them. It could be a friend from school or it could be an online predator.

Before friending or accepting anyone’s follow request, it is necessary to know who they are. Social media is a great tool for keeping in touch with friends and family members, but it is important to use caution and be responsible.

I have many friends that pride themselves on the fact that they have over one, two, or ten thousand followers. This is dangerous because with so many people seeing so much of their lives, it is impossible to be safe.

The feeling of invincibility starts early. During middle school, Omegle was the next best thing on the Internet. At sleepovers or on Saturday afternoons, young girls and boys would sit around a laptop and pretend to be whomever they thought of. They would give silly answers and laugh at the accents they pretended their user had.

However, we all knew that unless you wanted to see the “gross stuff,” you had to turn the camera off. Many of us have since moved on from this fear and feel that sending pornographic content over apps is OK.

The attitude toward sharing everything on the Internet has also lead 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 the website dosomething.org and the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, that there are three main reasons for sending nude photos: as a joke, to feel sexy and being under peer pressure.

Sending inappropriate photos is not a joke nor will it boost a person’s confidence. While at first it may be a thrill, the psychological damage could deteriorate a girl’s or boy’s self-esteem. Peer pressure is a horrible, real-life struggle. Everyone experiences peer pressure at some point in their lifetime, but your body belongs to you and no one else.

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: First, it could be considered illegal. Second, 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 out of anger. These situations are so damaging to a person’s confidence and reputation. It is common to think that someone in a close circle is 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. Sources say that 1 in 5 teenagers are sharing provocative photos and possibly even scarier, the senders are getting younger. It’s unimaginable how 7th and 8th grade students are sending such mature content, yet it still continues to happen.

I have a younger sister and I believe that it is my job to warn and educate her on the dangers of “sexting” and online predators. Everyone in high school should be doing this as well: Do not encourage inappropriate, online behavior by talking about how much fun or how safe it is; Do not make it seem okay to these young, impressionable girls and boys; Do not be afraid to stand up against peer pressure.