Safe sexting? Forget about it. No image sent across the Internet or a smartphone can ever be completely protected or safe, experts say.
The rise of apps like Snapchat and related programs may encourage sexting among teens, with the belief that the image is present for 10 seconds and then disappears. The reality is that even with additional apps that are supposed to protect against others viewing or retrieving the images, most experts agree that no images are truly confidential or safe.
The risks when teenagers sext continue to be underestimated by the youths as well as their parents. Not only can the images sent be viewed, saved or shared by adults, they can also return online years down the road – creating, in most cases, deep feelings of shame or regret. These images can also be used in acts of cyberbullying, and some teens have reported serious depression or even suicidal thoughts from cyberbullying over sexted images. Research also suggests that teens who sext are significantly more likely to be engaging in real-world sex acts with one or more partners. Teens’ attitudes toward sex, their bodies and relationships may also be impacted negatively by sexting because their brains are still developing – potentially leading to unhealthy beliefs in their adult years.
Articles have begun to circulate about how a sender’s e-mail address can be shared when an image is sent out with a sexting app, allowing adults or other teens to contact the sender without their permission. A screen shot can also be captured of a picture sent or received from apps such as Snapshot, meaning the image is then available for saving and sharing anytime.