An app called Snapchat is concerning some people who say that it can encourage risky behaviour and sexting in teens.

The app came out last year, and according to teens CTV spoke with, it’s become increasingly popular in Winnipeg in the past month.

Using an iPod or iPhone, the user can take photos and choose how long they show up – anywhere between one and ten seconds.

The teens say most of their friends have the app and use it to send funny faces, but some teens are sending riskier content.

Breanna, a teenager who uses the app, said, “I’ve heard like, people like, send nudes back and forth because you know, it's Snapchat and you can't reopen it.”

Some worry the app is encouraging risky behaviour.

“Youth are vulnerable and it's easy to want to believe, and that may make them more willing to engage in that type of activity, believing it will be gone,” said Signy Arnason, who works with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection.

In reality, the pictures can last a lot longer than the time the user chooses to display it. There are easy ways the image can be stored, just by taking a screen capture or using another camera to record the photo.

Michael Legary, an employee at security services company Seccuris, said, “In the last month we've seen three cases ourselves. Students took inappropriate images and they were distributed via Snapchat or phones.”

Even if the image is not caught on the app and you delete the photo, it leaves traces on the device that sent and received it.

Legary said, “Somebody who understands what they're technically doing can abstract that data.”

Security experts warn young people they're not exempt from child pornography laws, even if they're taking a picture of themselves. 

Anyone who sends nude photos of an underage person could face serious charges.

A few students CTV talked to said they’ll stick to sending funny pictures. They understand how sensitive photos could become a problem.

Anna, who uses Snapchat, said, “If someone wrong saw it, they could do something to you. They could hold it against you or something.”

There have been recent high profile cases where screen captures of personal photos were spread across the internet  to ruin their reputation and has led to suicide. Child protection experts say online image is so important to young people these days that even one personal photo could be devastating.

Users need to be careful when sending any digital photos. Those photos come with encrypted information including location and the device it was taken on and sent from. Once it's on the internet, it's hard to completely get rid of it.


- with a story by CTV’s Alesia Fieldberg