When new communications technology emerges, there is usually a social fear that arises with it:
“Watching television will corrupt your mind!”
“Sleeping next to your cell phone will cause cancer!”
“Quick and easy access to search engines on the Internet will shorten your attention span!”
(quoted from author)
These dystopian deterministic fears are common and usually fade away as people begin to domesticate the technology into their everyday lives. Conversely, sexting is one of these phenomena’s that continue to worry parents who believe their children’s explicit photos, especially young girls, will end up in the hands of child pornographers and pedophiles or leaked to online where everyone could view them. However, Amy Hasinoff argues in her article, Sexting as Media Production: Rethinking Social Media and Sexuality, that “consensual sexting” could be seen “as a form of self-expression” and that the legal authorities should not “criminalize teens who produce sexts and [should] instead focus on developing ways to protect adolescents from the distribution of their private images.” In this way, some of the benefits of sexting could be seen as a form of liberation, giving youth a chance to express their sexual desires and needs on their own terms. Now, the recent creation and popularity of the latest picture texting app, Snapchat, causes us to further reinstate her ideas.
“Sexting is often defined as the practice of sending sexually explicit images or texts through mobile phones via Internet applications.” Much of the concern comes from teenagers who thoughtlessly send naked photos of themselves, whether it’s from peer pressure or through their own inhibitions. While Hasinoff offers new and interesting ways of viewing sexting as media productions and liberating practices, I believe there is still a major risk of your photos being leaked onto several public social platforms, ruining your reputation and possibly your self-esteem. Yet, Hasinoff argues “nearly all youth who sext know that the practice is dangerous, so these sexting abstinence messages are likely to be as ineffective as abstinence-only sex education programs.” Today’s technology allows you to easily produce, store, copy, and send these messages through the click of a button; therefore, it’s vital to educate youth on how to assess the level of trust between the sender and the receiver in order to be sure that their messages are sent safely.
Snapchat is a social app that allows you to send pictures to your friends for up to 10-seconds. The fun part is that the pictures immediately self-destruct after the selected time limit. So basically, you could make the ugliest face in the entire world and send it to your friends because it doesn’t last forever. Obviously, this seems like the most perfect tool for teens to sext. They can feel confident sending a naked picture because they can control exactly how long the receiver can view the picture until it’s gone forever…or so we thought. Many people soon learned that the receiver can screenshot the picture, which saves it their phone, meaning that scandalous picture that was only purposed to last for 3 seconds could now last forever. However, the app does inform the sender if their picture was screenshotted, making the act awkward and less tempting. Nevertheless, hackers have found ways to retrieve snapchat photos without using the screenshot function. “Apps like Snapchat Hack, which circumvents Snapchat’s protection and allows people to share images, or the discovery that on Android “deleted” photos are merely hidden on the device, and can be retrieved with the right forensic software.” These hacks lead to Tumblr blogs such as Snapchat Sluts and even a website called Snapchat Leaked (which was eventually shut down) that displayed leaked naked photos.
When Snapchat Hack was discovered, many people were outraged that the system that promised to delete your photos actually just hides them somewhere on the phones of both the sender and receiver. In response to this, Rik Ferguson, vice president of security research at Trend Micro states, that when it comes to extremely personal and private photos,
Once again, it comes back to issues of trust and having consent as well as complete understanding of terms and conditions from both parties involved, this way they can safely enjoy the benefits of sexting, which Hasinoff advocates.
Due to the controversies over Snapchat’s not so self-destructing images, it’s worth it for Hasinoff to revisit and build upon her theories on safe sexting. With that being said, I believe that all of her theories can be easily applied to the average user’s knowledge and usage of Snapchat, while it even adds a new and exciting way to participate in the sexting world. However, it continues to be important to know whom your sending the photo too in order to have your privacy protected, even if they are through self-deleting platforms like Snapchat. Hasinoff wraps this discussion up perfectly when she states, “if youth educators saw sexting as a form of media production, they could concentrate their efforts on discouraging unauthorized image sharing and talking to youth about online privacy and sexual discrimination.”