'Self-destructing' photo app gaining popularity

SEATTLE -- A lot of people are busy this week playing with the new smart phones they got for Christmas, and the odds are that if they're teenagers they've already downloaded the popular Snapchat app.

Kids are always looking for the new stuff that moms and dads haven't caught on to yet, and many young young people are migrating to Snapchat, which recently became Apple's fourth most popular free app.

The app's key function is to make a user's social media evidence implode.

"If I texted you a photo of myself, you could keep it forever and then I have no control over what you do with it," said Travis Mayfield, director of social media for Fisher Communications.

But Snapchat can make images vanish into thin air. The app allows users to put a self-destruct timer on photos, giving the recipient only seconds to see the image.

The app offers harmless fun many of its users, but Mayfield points out that technology that can't be tracked could pose a problem for parents wanting to monitor their child's suggestive exchanges.

"It is a lot of fun when you keep it g-rated," Mayfield said. "The problem is teenagers -- and parents aren't knowing this is happening -- are beginning to use it for sexting."

Self destructing photos makes sexting tough for parents to police, but if you're fast with your fingers you can screen grab an image and share it.

"If you took a screen grab of my face being all crazy it would tell me you did it and then I could stop Snapchatting with you because I no longer trust you," Mayfield said.

Last week Facebook launched its new iPhone app called Facebook Poke, which is a carbon copy of Snapchat's self-destruct feature.
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