By Scott Seroka, KARE-11
BLAINE, Minn. -- Every once in awhile, parents need to sit down and
get a lesson from their children. Sometimes it's a lesson in humility,
but if you're a parent of a teen, you might want to get a little lesson
The current craze in the halls of high schools surrounds Snapchat.
"It's kind of a hot new app and it's mostly used by teenagers and
college students so far," Shayla Thiel-Stern, a professor of social
media at the University of Minnesota, explained.
KARE 11 sat down with three teens from Blaine to learn more about the
technology, which allows users to send so-called "self-destructing"
pictures or videos.
"It's pretty much like texting," Casey McCarty explained.
"The second you send it, it shows up on the other person's phone and
they can view it right away," Casey's buddy Alec Olson said.
You can set how long the message lasts before the Snapchat message
self-destructs. You can also draw on the pictures, which is a big part
of the appeal.
"It is a novelty, you use it because people use it with you," Devin
Pendergast, the third tech-savvy teen we talked with, explained.
There is a notion that the message disappears forever after it
self-destructs. The trio of friends we talked to say users can capture a
screen grab of a picture easily. In fact, Snapchat sends the message
sender a note when the picture is grabbed. Another way to keep that
message alive is by shooting it off the phone screen with another phone
or camera before it disappears.
"It's not poof forever gone. There are ways of retrieving it," Thiel-Stern said.
"Everything is permanent on the internet. Everything you do leaves an indelible mark," Jake DeWoskin,
an IT Security Expert with KDV Technology and Consulting, told KARE 11.
He says even if you don't screen grab or "shoot the message" with a
different device, there are ways to recover it.
"It's not particularly high tech. People who have copied data on and
off their mobile phones are already using the same process that could be
used to pull a video or pull an image off of a phone," DeWoskin
And while the recipient can possibly retrieve or recall the "self-destructing" message, the sender cannot.
"Once you hit send, you have lost control of that image forever. You
cannot recall it. You cannot ask for it back," DeWoskin warns.
Thiel-Stern has written volumes on how the current adolescent
generation uses social media. She says she understands the appeal of
Snapchat. "You get the feeling at least that you're leaving less of a
digital footprint," she said.
While Facebook and Twitter allow information to be shared in online
communities or forums, Snapchat allows users, again mostly teens and
young adults, to communicate one on one.
"You don't have the watchful eyes of parents and others looking at
what they're doing on Snapchat and that's the attraction. In this case
it seems like a huge disconnect so far. Parents are really tuned into
Facebook right now," she noted.
The professor has also followed the media buzz surrounding the popular app.
"The moral panic that's going on right now is that it's all about
sexting and I actually think that's overblown and I think once somebody
does a study on it, I personally believe this is going to be an
overblown fear," Thiel-Stern said.
Some parents haven't heard of the app, others are banning it while
other parents are monitoring it. "A lot of potential issues can be
overcome simply through conversation with your kids," Thiel-Stern
concluded. "Certainly talk to your children and understand if they're
using it, how they're using it, why they're using," DeWoskin added.
Snapchat's owners did not respond to KARE 11's request for comment,
but they did respond to NBC, writing, in part: "We built Snapchat to
give people a fun, expressive and authentic way to have conversations.
We've been blown away by the enthusiasm for the app from people of all
The teens we talked with use the app the way it was intended, as a
way to connect and goof around a little bit. Their parents have chatted
with them about social media. Casey McCarty's plugged-in dad told him
"everything is still traceable so don't do anything stupid."
Is Snapchat a new social media staple or will it "self-destruct" in the teen's 10-second tech window?
"I just kind of got a little bored with it. The novelty kind of wore off," teen Alec Olson said.
While apps may come and go, messages sent over smart phones and the internet stick around, whether you know it or not.