Authorities raise concerns about popular phone app - CBS 5 - KPHO

Authorities raise concerns about popular phone app

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -

Social media is a big part of most peoples' lives.

But at what point does all the new technology put kids at risk?

Authorities across the country and around the Valley are raising the red flag about a number of new smartphone apps that self-destruct messages right after they are sent.

CBS-5 spoke to a number of teenagers from Pinnacle High School in Phoenix to talk about one of their favorite apps, Snapchat.

"You can send like crazy pictures, and it doesn't matter, because they'll be gone in a couple of seconds," said Sanjana Pathi, 17.

SnapChat lets users take a picture or video, then send it to someone else.

You can then select how long you want the image to be seen, between two and 10 seconds, before the picture will self-destruct.

The only problem is that kids aren't the only ones using it.

Lauren Kidd, 16, said that a number of friends have already received random sexual images from complete strangers.

"Most of the time it is one of these creepy people that you can't find again, and they have all the access in the world to you, but you cant find them," said Kidd. "They don't have any face to them, just whatever they send you is what you know about them."

Courtney Miller is the community outreach and education coordinator for the Arizona Attorney General's Office.

She said that apps like SnapChat can be dangerous if not used properly.

One of the biggest problems is that they give teenagers a false sense of security.

Most teens think the images they send will disappear, but that's not necessarily the case.

Whoever receives a picture still has time to grab a screen shot and save the image that was sent.

"Anything they take electronically, or through an app or photo can easily be saved and reproduced somewhere," said Miller. "Things like sexting is one of the easiest issues to avoid - if kids just don't take the photo in the first place."

Another issue is when a message or picture self-destructs, it presents some challenges for law enforcement trying to track down a possible predator.

"It's an easy way to get to kids, if they don't know who is on other side," said Kidd.

Authorities are advising teens and adults not to open images from someone they don't know.

And if they do open it, and it's inappropriate, try to save and report it to help police catch  whoever sent it.

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