Just when parents figured out SnapChat, an app that makes photo texts disappear, two new apps hit the social scene that achieve the same objective on both Twitter and Facebook.
Twitterspirit allows a Twitter user to set a time limit for a tweet before it “self-destructs” in their feed. By using a hashtag (#) denoting any amount time, for example, #1m (1 minute), #3h (3 hours) or #7d (7 days) users can specify how long they want their tweet to live in their stream.
Secret.li (iOS) allows Facebook users to share personal photos with selected friends and to attach a time limit to those photos.
While Twitterspirit and secret.li don’t appear as dangerous as SnapChat—which has become a private sexting tool for many smart phone users—both apps add a layer of secrecy to social networks.
While it’s still too early to tell if these tools will be popular with teens, we do see some risks that may arise with both apps, which mimic the risks of SnapChat.
- Increased cyberbullying. With Twitterspirit a bully can send a comment into his twitter stream and mark it for #2m (two minutes) and then it disappears. Noticing or documenting this behavior could be tough if you miss the two-minute window. The same risks apply to photos shared on secret.li.
- Hidden conversations. If your child uses Twitter and you want to take an inventory of his posts, if he uses Tweeterspirit, he can attach a #1h (1 hour) “self-destruct” command to any inappropriate tweet, and you will likely never see it. With secret.li, you will never see the photos shared, because they will be private.
- Creation of private Twitter accounts. A private Twitter account between two users is the same as one-to-one texting so be sure to check your child’s phone or PC for additional Twitter accounts. Twitterspirit, like SnapChat, could increase the exchange of inappropriate photos because of its private feel.
- Exclusion of parents. A person using secret.li decides what to share and with whom to share it. This app will allow a privacy level similar to that of a private Facebook group.
- Increased temptation. With both apps, kids may find it easier to give into emptations to share racy photos or content they wouldn’t otherwise share if more eyes were watching them. After all, if you can attach aone-minute “self-destruct” tag to a photo, then the very valid warning that “everything is permanent on the Internet,” suddenly loses its deterrent power.
In all fairness, Twitter does currently allow users to delete a tweet (post) after it’s been shared publically. So Tweetspirit really just adds an “automatic” delete command to a tweet.
Still, the emergence of these ‘vanishing’ apps leaves one to wonder, why would you be compelled to post self-destructing content at all?
Developers say it’s about privacy and controlling personal content. Apps like Twitterspirit allow users an easy way to delete tweets, such as breaking news that becomes dated quickly. Likewise, secret.li, gives Facebook users greater control of their photos, which can come in handy. All of these privacy benefits may prove to be true for social networkers, which is always a plus.
However, when a tool is compared to SnapChat (an app quickly misused by many teens) we recommend parents stay informed and be on the lookout for both of these workaround apps on your child’s devices.
Toni Birdsong is a Family Safety Evangelist to McAfee. You can find her on Twitter @SafeEyes.
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