Screen grab of Snapchat download page

London - A mobile phone app that allows photographs to “self-destruct” within seconds of being viewed could encourage “sexting”, children’s charities have warned.

Snapchat enables users to set a timer on picture and video messages so they will disappear between one and ten seconds after being opened – meaning the recipient should not have time to download the image or forward it on.

But there are fears this will tempt teenagers using the app to send explicit and naked photographs of themselves, knowing they will be deleted seconds later.

Claire Lilley, of the NSPCC, said: “Rather than rely on an application to delete sexually explicit images, the safest thing is not to send them in the first place.

“Our research has shown that some girls are constantly pestered to get involved in sexting which many of them find threatening and demeaning. Anything which increases this pressure is not welcome.” There are also concerns it could also be used for cyber-bullying because it makes it harder to store the offending message as evidence.

Around 50 million photographs a day are taken with Snapchat, which can be downloaded for free through Apple’s App Store or Google Play.

Facebook released its own version of the app – called Poke – last week. But loopholes in the apps have already been found.

For example, a “screen grab” of the image can be taken before it disappears. And simple software can be downloaded that allows, iPhone users to save videos onto their hard drives. Facebook and Snapchat are now investigating the glitch

Miss Lilley added: “This kind of technology could give some young people a false sense of security.”

Emma-Jane Cross, chief executive of charity BeatBullying, said: “Sexting is a significant issue among our children and young people.”

She added: “It is important that parents and schools are aware of apps like Snapchat.”

Snapchat founders Evan Spiegel and Bobby Murphy said the app was created to let people to share embarrassing or silly photographs that they would not feel happy to circulate if they thought they could be stored or passed on.

Last month, an investigation by the NSPCC and Channel 4 found boys and girls as young as 13 routinely swap explicit pictures of themselves.

One teenage girl told researchers said: “I get asked for naked pictures at least two or three times a week.” - Daily Mail