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This is not a post about how dumb young people are, or if they only had sense they could get a job.  I am not yelling at anyone telling them to get off my lawn. No, this is a post about how young people are being lied to, and have always been lied to, but people who want to profit off their gullibility.  It is how we prey on their lack of impulse control to make a buck.  It is wrong.  Plain and simple.

Snapchat, if you do not know, is a new photo service that, solved a particular problem for a particular group of people, mostly young people.  You see, some people like to take pictures of themselves naked, or having sex, or touching themselves, or committing crimes.  The problem was that when these pictures were sent to someone else they could be sent to others, or used as evidence, or posted on facebook.  What should have been just a playful photo could end up having dire consequences.

So Snapchat came up with a cunning plan.  It set itself up so that the photo would only be viewable for a short period of time, as short as a few seconds.  At that point, we presume, it would be deleted.  Now, this is not without risk.  The receiver could take a screen shot, which would be reported, or take a picture of the picture with another device, but the intent was clear to all the kids who wanted to play with selfpics.

You could take a handbra, send it to a potential hookup, and reduce the chances it would show up later.  You could prove you made it with that popular person, and not have it show up on twitter.  You could take a naked, and not have your mom find out.

Except Snapchat mislead.  The photos are not gone.  They can be recovered.  And now lots of young people who thought they were safe are not.

We may ask why does this matter?  Why should kids be taking these pictures anyway?  Shouldn't abstinence be the rule?  Of course it should, but it is not.  And exposing one's body is not inherently bad.  And it is not going to stop.  I am sure many of us have the experience of being indiscrete with a Polaroid or web cam.  Sure, it can be taken too far with the fake 'stolen' tapes used to launch reality stars careers, or athletes secretly taping as they commit rape, but by and large these things are not excessively harmful.

When thinking about this I recall when credit card companies started aggressively targeting college kids.  Credit in itself is not bad.  Targeting very young adults who have not yet developed full impulse control and encouraging them to spend money they do not have is not so harmless.  We see the same thing with smoking.  The same thing with drinking.  The same thing with shoes.  Kids are being told that something will make them better, make other think they are better, will make them feel better, and all they have to do is participate.  Sign form.  Buy the shoes.  Take a picture.  It will be the difference between being alone and being loved.

Works with adults as well.

I don't know why Snapchat does not just delete the pictures.  I don't know what in it's business model requires it to keep the pictures.  Is it just incompetence, like google claimed when it collected and kept extra data during the time it took photographs for maps.  Or is it something more malicious, or at least calculated.

I don't know.  What is true is that many young people out there are now at significant risk.  Young people who have been told by older adults that the behavior was not as risky as what they were doing.  And so, as has always been, we must communicate to the kids that adults don't always have their best interest in mind.  Sometimes the adults just want a buck, even it hurts the kids.

Originally posted to lowt on Thu May 09, 2013 at 11:27 AM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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